Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Musharraf and the mango tree


The future of President Pervez Musharraf grows more opaque by the day. At its simplest level, it seems that while many people think he should step down, few want to see him forced out in a way that would divide and damage the country.

File photo of President Bush and President MusharrafIn the latest stories highlighting the currents and counter-currents swirling around the former army general, Musharraf lashed out at “rumour-mongers” for suggesting he planned to quit, while President George W. Bush telephoned him to pledge his continued backing.  Meanwhile disgraced scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, has begun speaking out against Musharraf by complaining he was unfairly made to take the rap for selling nuclear secrets.  That A.Q. Khan now feels safe to speak after four years under house arrest is seen as one of the most telling indications of the times turning against Musharraf.

Reading comments on an earlier blog about Musharraf’s future got me wondering whether one could predict his next move from his past. As an Urdu-speaking ”mohajir” whose family fled Delhi at partition, an outsider in Punjabi-dominated Pakistan, and also as a former commando, how would he respond to the pressure on him to quit?

There are simplistic responses to this question — my bet would be that the usual response of an outsider and a commando would be to fight it out, if needs be by adopting the riskiest course of action. But since that question seemed too simplistic, I decided to reread what Musharraf had said about himself in his autobiography “In the Line of Fire”.