Is Musharraf looking less beleaguered?

June 13, 2008

President Pervez Musharraf - April file photoPakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi used an interesting choice of words when he talked to reporters in Paris about the new government’s relationship with President Pervez Musharraf.

Reuters Paris chief correspondent Crispian Balmer tells me that he said the ruling Pakistan People’s Party had established a working relationship with Musharraf after February elections in which the president’s political allies were defeated.

“The reason we have established that working relationship with him is to give stability,” he said. “We realise that this transition from dictatorship to democracy is a delicate transition and let’s not unnecessarily rock the boat.”

Those did not seem to be the words of a government that expects the embattled former army general to step down any time soon, despite a mass rally in Pakistan by lawyers fighting for the reinstatement of judges fired by Musharraf last year.

The Asia Times even suggests that the tide may be turning in favour of Musharraf after this week’s American air strike that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan. “… the US air strike has severely unsettled the country,” it says. “Musharraf, with his excellent rapport with Washington, is the man many see as the only person capable of preventing it from happening again.”

But even if he survives as president for now, many say his situation will become almost untenable when President George W. Bush, who prided himself on his personal relationship with Musharraf, leaves office next January. 

According to one comment on a blog I posted last month on Musharraf: “Given Pakistan’s history,  no ruler has survived more than a decade,  give or take a year or two. As Musharraf approaches the 10th anniversary of his coup against Nawaz Sharif next year, I think he is going to leave. But he’ll leave on his on own terms, not let the Sharif brothers hound him out.”

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