Saturday, May 31, 2008

US Backs Musharraf as Rumors Swirl

In a show of support, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said U.S. President George W. Bush spoke with Mr. Musharraf Friday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House said the conversation was a follow-up to Mr. Bush's recent meeting in Egypt with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. "The president reiterated the United States' strong support for Pakistan, and he indicated he looks forward to President Musharraf's continuing role in further strengthening U.S.-Pakistani relations," Ms. Perino said.

The rumors of President Musharraf's departure have gained strength last week with the following three reports in Pakistani media:

1. PPP Chairman Asif Zardari called Musharraf a "relic of the past" and called for his resignation.

2. Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan’s ruling coalition had agreed to “expel” President Pervez Musharraf from power.

3. A late-night meeting between Musharraf and his successor as army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, fueled speculation that Musharraf was being forced by the army to resign.

President Musharraf has dismissed the rumors, declaring that he continued to have good relations with the institution he used to lead before quitting as army chief last year. An army spokesman also contradicted the report.

But many political analysts say it is becoming increasingly difficult for Musharraf to hang on to power. "He has no power base left. The army is at the very least neutral, if not against him," said Shafqat Mahmood, a former federal minister. Mr. Mahmood, recognized by the media as an "independent analyst", appears to be part of the dis-information campaign by Nawaz league.

While Zardari is holding his cards to his chest, the Nawaz League, their "civil society" surrogates, and their media cheerleaders are spinning a rumor mill about President Musharraf's departure that is driving down the business/investor confidence and the Pakistani economy and stock market with it. Not only is the Pakistani economy in danger of imminent collapse, but Zardari and the PPP are almost certain to be the next target of the "civil society" and its uncivil campaign that has been characterized by violence on the streets from its inception in Islamabad and Lahore. By continuing with their agenda of ensuring chaos, the Sharif brothers are attempting to overturn the verdict of the people and deny the PPP its chance to govern Pakistan peacefully as the single largest party.

If the Pakistani economy does "melt down" (as Zardari put it) as a result of the politics of confrontation, the biggest losers will be the average Pakistanis whose modest expectations of "roti, bijli and paani" will remain unfulfilled. Long term damage to democracy in Pakistan is also likely if people are permanently disillusioned with democratic institutions as a means of solving their basic problems.

Sources: Wall Street Journal
Geo TV
Press Trust of India

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