After Musharraf: The Next President


Senate Chairman Muhammad Mian Soomro has become the interim president of Pakistan after the resignation of Pervez Musharraf.

[Interestingly, Barack Obama, eager to boost his foreign policy credentials, can note that he met Soomro decades ago.  Obama befriended Soomro's son and stayed at their family home in Pakistan during college.]

Soomro, a Musharraf loyalist and Monopoly Man lookalike, will remain president for a month or so–till an electoral college consisting of parliament and the provincial assemblies elects a permanent replacement by a simple majority.

The potential presidential candidates are many.  Below is a list of candidates mentioned in the Pakistani media.


Asif Ali Zardari

Asif Ali Zardari

Feryal Talpur

Feryal Talpur

Azra Fazal Pechucho

Azra Fazal Pechucho

Asif Ali Zardari, People’s Party co-chairman and Benazir Bhutto’s widower, has expressed interest in the presidency.  But such a move could be seen as a blatant power grab.  Zardari would then be the locus of public anger–especially if he takes the presidency and opposes a reduction in the office’s powers.  He has said that the next president would be a PPP loyalist.  Recently, he said the next president could be a woman.  Many see this as an inference to one of his sisters, Feryal Talpur or Azra Fazal Pechuho.  In such a scenario, Zardari would control the premiership and presidency indirectly.


Attaullah Mengal

Attaullah Mengal

Asfandyar Wali

Asfandyar Wali

Mahmood Khan Achakzai

Mahmood Khan Achakzai

Pakistan has faced challenges managing interprovincial relations and inter-ethnic harmony.  Presently it has a prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, from Punjab.  Gilani is a Seraiki speaker and can be seen as a fine balance between a Punjabi and Sindhi).  Many in Pakistan have suggested the appointment of a Baloch or Pakhtun as president.  Balochistan is the least integrated province in Pakistan’s federation and home to a bloody insurgency.  Attaullah Mengal, a leading Baloch notable and politician, has been noted by some talking heads as a worthy candidate.  But his positions on provincial autonomy are unpalatable for most Pakistanis, particularly its military.

Others have pushed forward the names of Pakhtun politicians Asfandyar Wali and Mahmood Khan Achakzai.  Like Mengal, they have troubled relations with Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment.  Their appointment would require some political gymnastics and compromise.


Wajihuddin Ahmed

Wajihuddin Ahmed

Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui

Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui

In order to placate the lawyers’ movement or secure the presidency’s titular status, some have suggested the appointment of a retired judge.  Most notable nominees include Wajihuddin Ahmed and Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui.  The latter name, I have heard, has been proposed by the PML-N.  Both judges refused to take the oath under Musharraf’s 1999 Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) and retired instead.


Abdul Qadeer Khan

Abdul Qadeer Khan

Abdul Sattar Edhi

Abdul Sattar Edhi

In a campaign speech, Nawaz Sharif pledged to nominate nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan for the presidency.  His statement was likely just political pandering.  Khan’s upgrade from house arrest to the presidency is inconceivable.  But rightists and Islamists love him.

Another potential candidate is Abdul Sattar Edhi, a leading humanitarian in Pakistan.  But Edhi has recently many pro-Musharraf statements and strongly criticized Sharif and Zardari, thus making the likelihood of his appointment low.


Salmaan Taseer

Salmaan Taseer

Jehangir Karamat

Jehangir Karamat

At the moment, the president heads the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), which controls Pakistan’s nukes, and is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.  As a result, the military-intelligence establishment would be keenly interested in who replaces Musharraf.

Salmaan Taseer, presently the governor of Punjab, is someone who would be amenable to both the PPP and the military-intelligence establishment. The name of Jehangir Karamat, a former chief of army staff, was mentioned on television today.  But Karamat, like Taseer, has had a rocky relationship with Nawaz.  The appointment of either one of them would push Sharif closer toward the opposition benches.  Taseer is socially liberal while Karamat was Pakistan ambassador to the U.S.  Both would also be very palatable to Washington.


Aitzaz Ahsan

Imran Khan

Raza Rabbani

Raza Rabbani

Then there are politicians that have taken a strong anti-Musharraf stance and could be ‘rewarded’ with being ‘crowned’ president.  Most notable among them include Aitzaz Ahsan and Imran Khan, both of whom did not run in the recent elections.  Appointing them could reintegrate these individuals and their ‘constituencies’ into the political process, boosting support for the government.  Aitzaz’s relations with Zardari, however, are troubled.  And Imran is seen as a nuisance by mainstream politicians.  A more probable candidate from this pool could be Raza Rabbani, a leading PPP senator who managed to maintain a strong pro-lawyers movement and anti-Musharraf stance, while being loyal to Zardari.


Fazlur Rehman

Fazlur Rehman

Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif

Finally, the coalition government can decide to choose a candidate from the PML-N, JUI-F, and ANP.  Such individuals include the aforementioned Asfandyar Wali, as well as Fazlur Rehman and Nawaz Sharif.  Fazl has reportedly long fantasized about becoming president or prime minister.  But his Taliban ties definitely count him out.  He could be pacified with another Land Cruiser.  Zardari will have to control Fazl’s blind ambition, as Musharraf had done.

Sharif is a possible candidate.  He’s currently barred from elected office.  That could be undone if and when the deposed judges are restored.  But he’s also unable to serve as prime minister because of a two-term limit.  It could take time for that to prohibition to be removed.  Sharif could be given a soon-to-be diluted presidency, while Zardari takes the premiership for himself.  Would he fall for that?



The electoral college (described in the intro) makes possible a multiple set of voting alliances for the presidential elections.

Possible majority-attaining voting blocs include:

  1. PPP + PML-N;
  2. PPP + PML-Q;
  3. PML-N + PML-Q + Smaller parties + Independents;
  4. PPP + ANP + JUI-F + MQM + Independents.

This means that the PPP and PML-N don’t have to work together to choose a president.  But that would endanger the governing coalition.  A controversial candidate could produce an opposing alliance of antagonistic parties. Pakistan’s best best is for the governing coalition to choose a non-controversial person who will be content with a reduced portfolio.  For its next president, Pakistan needs a symbol that will help unite it in a time of increasing fragmentation.

Print Friendly
Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis

Category: Uncategorized


20 Responses

  1. [...] Arif Rafiq at The Pakistan Policy Blog takes a close look at Musharraf’s potential replacements and the possible voting coalitions that may emerge. While “the PPP and PML-N don’t have to work together to choose a president….that would endanger the governing coalition….For its next president, Pakistan needs a symbol that will help unite it in a time of increasing fragmentation.” [...]

  2. th1980 says:

    Why not Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry? I see him as a compromise candidate in many ways.

    1. It placates the lawyers movement
    2. It can brush over the tough questions of whether the NRO is to be rolled back and Zardari prosecuted or tried for something or other
    3. It gives Nawaz an easy cop out on the judiciary issue in order to further his ambitions through a deal with the PPP

    Whether he would accept is another question but there would be a huge significance in replacing Musharraf with the man he ousted and who inadvertently became the catalyst for Musharraf’s own demise.

    Failing that, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would be a suitably qualified candidate, no?

  3. Arif Rafiq says:


    The lawyers movement wants Iftikhar Chaudhry restored as chief justice. Offers of other positions will be seen as a cop out. Chaudhry has already rejected Zardari’s offer of the Balochistan governorship. Now that Musharraf’s gone, there’s no excuse for not reinstating IC. The lawyers movement, unless a division is created, is staunchly in favor of IC’s restoration.

    Bilawal Bhutto? I hope you’re kidding! Constitutionally, he’s not permitted to run for office yet. He read a two sentence statement and responded to 2-3 questions at a press conference in Karachi today. All in English. He can’t even speak Urdu.

  4. [...] here is a nice list from the possible candidate for the next  president’s position the Pakistan Policy blog , it is good to see that it includes [...]

  5. [...] the wake of Pervez Musharraf’s resignation the Pakistan Policy Blog gives us a rundown of prospective candidates for the presidency of Pakistan. The interim president [...]

  6. Rizwan says:

    All of you Musharraf supporters go to http://www.longlivemusharraf.com to express you feelings.

    Long live Musharraf
    Long Live Pakistan

  7. [...] Who after Musharraf? Could Asif Ali or Nawaz Sharif be the next President? There is no clear answer to that and only time will tell. Earlier this year Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League won the elections and formed a coalition government. Bhutto handpicked the current Prime Minister of Pakistan….who visited the US last month but left a poor impression (cite NYTimes article) on Washington. “Either leader – or a coalition of the two – must move quickly to restore the judiciary, civil service, and an economy in decline. Civilian rule over the military also must be strengthened,” according to a Christian Science Monitor editorial. It adds that “a lame-duck Bush administration must decide where to put its trust and money in Pakistan.” [...]

  8. kumail says:

    If it is all about placating the incorregibly unintelligent hordes that the media refer to as masses why not ‘elect’ the burqa-clad maulana of lal masjid as president? ‘Democracy is the best revenge’ is it not so why not avenge the ‘massacre’ of the innocent anarchists of the ‘non violent’ movement of Jamia Hafsa and Faridia? And while you are at it make maulana radio the information minister (Goebbels would be soon forgotten thanks to the maulans sermons) and Baitulah Mehsud as the COAS? Pakistan se Zinda Bhag would then be sung in all schools of the country.

  9. [...] does wonder what next, wherein lies a huge mixture of political wannabes eying for the top slot, though the onus of [...]

  10. Riaz Haq says:

    The next president will most likely play a crucial role in the upcoming battle between PPP and PML(N). Whoever gets the job will still have all the constitutional powers of the president, including the power to fire the PM and dissolve the parliament, but without Musharraf’s baggage. I have a feeling Zardari will be extremely careful in picking such a person.
    Even an innocuous person can suddenly turn on him. I’m sure he remembers what Leghari did to BB. Zardari will also need to keep one eye on military and try and manage its leadership as well as possible.

  11. [...] For a run down on potential candidates, here’s a list from Pakistan policy blog. [...]

  12. Arif Rafiq says:

    Kumail, your comments would be meaningful if you said something constructive instead of hiding behind spiteful sarcasm. You clearly do not like the present situation. What alternative do you propose?

    Riaz, I agree with you. The next president will figure importantly into what looks to be a renewed PPP-PML(N) rivarly. But I think the powers of the next president will be reduced prior to or soon after his/her election — unless Zardari takes the office himself. And I definitely agree with you that Zardari has to watch his back. Any bold attempt for a power grab will backfire. He’s perfectly situated to replace Musharraf as the most hated person in Pakistan.

  13. i think imran khan ko president lanna chaiye.
    woh kuch kar sakta hai pakistan k liye.
    ab intazaar hai to imran khan ke ane ka aur sadar ki kursi
    sambalne k liye..
    imraan khan zindabad..

  14. i think imran khan will be the next president of pakistan..
    i believe that imran khan will do somethink for pakistan..

  15. [...] here is a nice list from the possible candidate for the next president’s position the Pakistan Policy blog , it is good to see that it includes [...]

  16. adeel zafar says:

    pervaiz dunya ka sab se bara pagal tha. us jesa gadha to main ne kabhi nahin dekha tha. use kaam to karna aata nahin tha bas woh president ki degree le kar khush hota tha aur shokhian marta tha aur even yeh ke use president ka matlab bhi nahin aata tha woh pakka jahil tha

  17. [...] in functie). Probabil ca preocuparea lor principala va fi reorganizarea puterii si alegerea unui nou presedinte. In directia aceasta, ceea ce ii uneste pe liderii coalitiei democratice, Sharif si Zardari, e o [...]

  18. Mariam Sabri says:

    I think Kumail does have a point. Democracy should only be propounded by those who have a democratic mindset. What we have isn’t genuine. I’d rather have dictatorship because there’s less hypocricy in the system then.

    I was sickened yesterday on my way to the Karachi airport with billboards after the Drig Road signal with the PPP slogan ‘Democracy is the best revenge’. Democracy shouldn’t be a revenge. The government shouldn’t be settling personal scores with the country going through what it is.

    Secondly, democracy screws minorities over. That’s just fact. Remember the massacre in Karachi in the early 90s?

  19. Arif Rafiq says:

    Mariam, the present system is flawed. But how you can rely on the whims of one man? This was perhaps palatable when Musharraf was more benign and made the right decisions. But when he began to use force against judges and moderates, and made stupid decision after stupid decision, what is the benefit of that? There was a time when it was necessary for him to make tough decisions in a time in which the country was unable to do so. But since then the country has grown a bit. He never caught on to that. Failed to transition. Instead of allying with the middle class, he fought against it. That’s why he’s smoking cigars and listening to Muhammad Rafi songs. Pakistan cannot rely on saviors. It needs a system that works. When you give too much power to one man, he is bound to abuse it. Plus they never know how to leave. And as they stay in office, they become more insular and resistant to constructive criticism. That’s why constitutional checks, real elections, and term limits matter.

    As for the “Democracy is the best revenge” slogan — I agree with you. It’s tacky. It was ok in the wake of BB’s death, to show that Pakistan should follow the path of institutional change, not violence. But now it is a mere slogan and the idea of revenge is dangerous. Pakistan needs results, not revenge.

    Finally, Pakistan has had trouble dealing with differences from day one. What Karachi massacre are you writing about? The operations against the MQM? I think the Baloch would contend they were screwed over in Musharraf’s era.

  20. Rizwan says:

    I have started this website for the good of Pakistan. I am personally strong supporter of President Musharraf and Imran Khan. But I believe in unity with all fellow Pakistanis. I believe we must support our present ruler whoever he or she is. We must give them chance to prove themselves.I believe we must unite for the interest of Pakistan. We must applaud good things done by opposition and criticize anything which is not in the interest of Pakistan. I believe we can not afford to let enemy destroy Pakistan. I believe we must act civilized among International community. I believe in Moderate Islam and hate extremism. Muslims do not kill Muslims and this does not mean Muslims should kill innocent non Muslims. So I believe all the suicide bombings in Pakistan has outsider’s hand. I believe we should have good relationship with India , USA and even Israel along with rest of the world. I believe we should closely watch Hindu extremists as well as Muslim extremists.
    http://www.longlivemusharraf.com is my new website.

Leave a Reply


Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

For Media and Consulting Inquiries:
E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

On Twitter:

On the Radio:
Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button