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Musharraf vs. Shahbaz: Who’s the Better Singer?

Pakistan now has two leading singing political figures, Pervez Musharraf and Shahbaz Sharif. I think they’re both good.

Below is Mush singing while president, in the same hall in which the infamous Abdullah Yousuf danced in a manner that made me want to poke my eyes out. Mush’s artistic debut was first aired on Dunya News. Later, the story was covered on a number of outlets, including BBC News and the pan-Arab al-Arabiyya.

Today, Shahbaz Sharif appeared on a children’s show and sang on two occassions (~16:35 and ~18:09). Unfortunately, the video isn’t available in an embeddable format, so here is the link.

On a related note, Nawaz Sharif, according to some rumors, used to sing to his girlfriend(s) on the phone.

And there are indications that Richard Holbrooke could get into the mix. He’ll be singing somethings from the Beach Boys or Frank Sinatra.

Bilawal is on call to bust out some of his favorites tunes from the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus.

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Musharraf Ordered Firing on Iftikhar Chaudhry’s Motorcade

Sheikh Waqas Akram of the Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) revealed today on the floor of the Punjab Assembly that in 2007 former President Pervez Musharraf ordered the Punjab government to shoot at the motorcade of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in Lahore.

The firing was to be done in three separate locations on the deposed judge’s procession route, designed to spark fear among congregants and discourage their participation in rallies.

Akram states that the PML(Q)-run government in Punjab refused to follow the orders, which were relayed by a senior intelligence official.

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Rally to Save the NRO

Politics makes seemingly strange bedfellows.  But alliances are always based on interests.  

Pervez Musharraf and Asif Zardari called Altaf Hussain to give him props on yesterday’s rally to protest the desecration of Benazir Bhutto’s posters (which was vigorously condemned by Nawaz Sharif several days earlier).

There are also reports that last week Musharraf called Zardari after meeting with some Sindhi politicians to boost support for the Mr. 100% (Zardari).  Musharraf reportedly asked Pir Pagaro to coax Yousuf Raza Gilani, a relative, not to cause Zardari trouble.  

It all makes sense: Zardari is certainly following in the footsteps of the Musharraf of 2007, which, I think was the Chinese year of the [dumb] ass.  Nawaz Sharif was right today when he said, “It appears as if the spirit of Musharraf has entered Zardari.”  This is not a partisan argument.  There are quite a few senior PPP figures who believe the same.

Interestingly, Ahmed Raza Kasuri is also on the same page as Musharraf and Zardari.  That would certainly make Zulfikar Ali Bhutto happy.

The real danger from Zardari going down is that the PPP is unlikely to rise again.  And that would be a major blow to Pakistan’s quest for political stability.  The PPP is flawed and internally undemocratic, but it is a national institution and a important pillar for domestic stability.

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Breaking News: Pervez Musharraf Will Address the Nation at 1PM PST

Aaj News’ Shaukat Piracha reports that Pervez Musharraf will address the nation at 1PM Pakistan Standard Time/3AM New York and make a major announcement.

Piracha says that he has received no confirmation that Musharraf will resign, but there are indications that he will do so.  Musharraf will tell his side of the story of the past year and a half.

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GEO News Reports Musharraf Will Address Nation and Remain in Pindi

GEO News’ Islamabad Bureau Chief Absar Alam reports Pervez Musharraf will address the nation today and could resign from the presidency.

In his initial report, Alam said that Musharraf will remain in Rawalpindi and receive legal indemnity.   In subsequent reports Alam said that Musharraf could announce his resignation on the principle that he will be given indemnity by the major political forces, guaranteed by friendly foreign powers.

Alam said the PML-N remains against indemnity. [There are, however, enough parliamentary votes from the PPP, PML-Q, MQM, and ANP to pass a law giving Musharraf indemnity.]

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Report: Musharraf to Resign on Monday and Head to Saudi for Three Month Exile

Newsweek reports, based on conversations with unnamed close aides (past and present) to Musharraf, that:

“Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is expected to resign Monday and fly into exile in Saudi Arabia, where he is to remain for the next three months, a former aide to the president has told NEWSWEEK on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.”

The reporters, Ron Moreau and Fasih Ahmed, are pretty good.

Moreau has been covering Pakistan for quite some time and teams up with some of Pakistan’s best journalists.

Ahmed has been writing for Pakistani and U.S. publications for several years.  He has also written many pro-Musharraf opinion columns in the Daily Times.  He’s involved in his family business, the Associated Group.  His father, Iqbal Z. Ahmed, is a prominent businessman and very close to Musharraf.  In fact, he has served as a negotiator for Musharraf and was recently accused of trying to buy defections from the PPP.  So Fasih’s personal connections could provide access to Musharraf’s inner circle.  And while a Musharraf partisan would promote the idea that the president is still putting up a fight, even if he were not, Ahmed instead does the exact opposite, lending credibility to the piece.

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Musharraf Speaks: Foreign and Domestic Conspiracy Against State Institutions

Highlights:

  • There is a conspiracy against Pakistan’s state institutions waged by internal and external forces.
  • The nation and the army are one and inseparable.
  • National reconciliation is necessary for political stability.
  • Greatest challenges are terrorism, extremism, and socio-economic.
  • No announcement of resignation.
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The Final Round: Musharraf Fights Against Nawaz and Himself

The writing is on the wall.  ‘The show is over,’ the graffiti reads.  Despite the statements from Rashid Qureshi and Pervaiz Elahi, I think Pervez Musharraf has read it.  Whether or not he is, in his view, able to come to terms with it is another issue.

Musharraf must have realized the nail had hit his coffin when Maulana Fazlur Rehman became a full-fledged supporter of impeachment.  The “maulana”, a misappellation if there ever was, is Pakistan’s political weather vane.  If I were a betting man, I’d follow his picks.

Fazlu knows who’s up and who’s down.  He’s the master of double speak.   He, like a magician, can be in two places at once (in government and the opposition).  And so, when Fazlu has decidedly ditched Musharraf, after loyally serving him in the opposition for five years, you know Pervez’s time is up.  The “maulana” has moved on to another man.  One of his deputies lashed out against Musharraf on a talk show Thursday; the display was quite shocking.

Fazlu didn’t show up for Musharraf’s 65th birthday party.  Some friends, like Salmaan Taseer, did come by — but only to tell him to resign.  Najam Sethi told him the same, but through the Wall Street Journal.  Abdullah Yusuf, freed from his bureaucratic duties, perhaps had his first show as a full time exotic dancer last night.

So what’s holding Musharraf back?  Two people: Nawaz and himself.

Musharraf recognizes that he’s got to go, but he wants to ensure that he won’t be prosecuted after resignation.  That’s the request he made to Shahbaz Sharif via their conduit, Brigadier (Retd.) Niaz Ahmad.  But, frankly put, Nawaz is being an ass about it, saying he’ll decide after Mush resigns.  It’s like saying, I’ll put my gun down after you put yours down, rather than at the same time.  Meanwhile, Tariq Aziz is said to have met Zardari, who supports Musharraf receiving indemnity.  Zardari demonstrated that clearly today in an interview with Hamid Mir.

So the cards seem to be in Nawaz Sharif’s hands and he is willing to let Musharraf dangle off the cliff a bit.  Hopefully he’ll let someone pull Musharraf up and usher him out of public life.    Perhaps Nawaz would like Musharraf to get a taste of Attock Jail, like he did.  But he would also be punishing Pakistan in the process.  If Nawaz chooses the more chivalrous path, he’ll be the better man and his nation will benefit.

Finally, the coming days will be a major test of Musharraf’s psychology. Immensely self-confident and brash, he takes on his opponents head on.  It’s a characteristic many Pakistanis have liked.  But in the end, it became far too destructive.  In recent years, Musharraf has rejected good counsel.  His decision making has become more abrtirary and less consultative.  He’s always been a risk taker.  But without the negating force of saner minds, you get his long string of utterly stupid decisions, like imposing emergency rule.

So there’s a chance Musharraf could ride against the storm or even pull a trick or two.  But based on the consensus that has emerged in Rawalpindi, Islamambad, and elsewhere, the tolerance for adventurism will be nil.

One hopes that saner minds will prevail.  Punishing Musharraf will do no good for Pakistan.  The punishers are as guilty as the punished.  The key is to orient all major actors toward good behavior.  Revenge will only perpetuate the cycle of destructiveness.

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Musharraf Impeachment or Resignation Possible; Army and Tier Two Parties Crucial

Pakistan’s governing coalition nearly has the sufficient parliamentary votes to remove Pervez Musharraf from the presidency. But meeting the required threshold of 295 votes will involve horse trading with smaller parties and independents, as well as maintaining internal party discipline. Musharraf can use a number of constitutional powers to remain in office. However, he could also resign before the impeachment process begins–especially if the Pakistan Army decides impeachment would harm its own interests.

Impeachment Proceedings Could Extend Through August into September:

  • The governing coalition is set to initiate the impeachment process late next week by presenting a charge sheet to the National Assembly speaker of offenses it alleges Musharraf committed.
  • A joint session of parliament will then convene within 8-17 days.
  • During the joint session, the charges against the president will be investigated collectively or by a select committee.  Musharraf or a designated representative can offer a defense.
  • Finally, the joint session will vote, serving as a jury.  A 2/3 majority or 295 votes is required for conviction.  If this threshold is met, then Musharraf ceases to be president immediately.  If it is not, Musharraf remains as president.
  • There is no time limit on the investigation/deliberation period.

Pro-Impeachment Forces Face Surmountable Obstacles:

  • Possibility of Internal Dissent: The governing coalition currently has 264 parliamentary members.  Some dissidents, including the PPP’s Amin Fahim, have opposed Musharraf’s impeachment.  As a result, there is the challenge of maintaining party voting discipline.
  • Small Parties and Independents Critical: The four party governing coalition claims the support of parliamentrians from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  The FATA parliamentrians combined with other independents and small party members (e.g. PkMAP, Jamaat-i Islami), constitute a pool of 41 possible supporters.  Together, they could raise the pro-impeachment vote up to 305, providing a cushion for internal dissent.
  • Deal Making Could Create Problems: Securing the votes of non-governing coalition parliamentrians could require compromises on other critical issues.  Prior to a vote, this might require intensive bargaining and the possibility of concession related to the war on terror, restoration of the deposed judges, and the autonomy of Balochistan.  Subsequently, such concessions could affect the coalition government’s relations with Washington as well as Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment.

Musharraf Has Five Options:

  • Prior to the Impeachment Proceedings: Musharraf can avoid impeachment by resigning before the process begins, perhaps as part of a deal with the coalition government.  Also, he can choose more confrontational measures: dissolving the National Assembly or imposing emergency rule, which would prevent the start of the impeachment process.
  • After the Start of the Impeachment Proceedings: Musharraf can permit the impeachment process to proceed, as he has indicated he will do.  He has the choice of accepting a parliamentary vote in or against his favor.  Alternatively, Musharraf can appeal a conviction to the Supreme Court, as per the recommendations of his legal advisers, Malik Qayyum and Sharifuddin and Abdul Hamid Pirzada.

Kayani’s Indirect Intervention Possible:

  • Zardari Provides a Window of Opportunity for the Army to Intervene: The governing coalition has not formally released its charge sheet against Musharraf.  During his press conference on Thursday, PPP-Co Chairman Asif Zardari appeared careful to criticize Musharraf without implicating the army in any wrong doing.  There was no mention of the missing persons, the insurgency in Balochistan, and the Lal Masjid incident.  If Musharraf were to be prosecuted for such offenses, then the same could be potentially done for other army officers–perhaps even Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who was previously the ISI chief.  It seems as if Zardari has provided the army with an opportunity–prior to the issue of a formal charge sheet–to decide whether or not it can absorb the potential challenges stemming from Musharraf’s impeachment proceedings.
  • Kayani’s First Great Crisis: Impeachment proceedings could open up the Pakistan Army’s role in Balochistan, the Red Mosque incident, and the overall war on terror.  Furthermore, it would be the first time a former army chief of staff faced trial or even punishment.  Many rightists would like to see Musharraf be punished by death for treason.  The potential of a former army chief received imprisonment or even death does not bode well for Gen. Kayani, who seeks to restore the institution’s morale and corporate integrity. But, at the same time, many in Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment see a recent chain of events designed to neutralize Pakistan’s military and intelligence–particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).  Recent unsubstantiated allegations of the ISI’s role in the Indian Kabul embassy attack are an implicit targeting of Gen. Kayani, ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, and by extension his relative and ex-boss Pervez Musharraf.  If the army sees Musharraf as the glue holding the dam together, they could stand by him to prevent a deluge.  In the end, Gen. Kayani must decide whether his army and country are better off with or without Musharraf.  If he decides the latter, then he could ask Musharraf to resign and help him secure indemnity.

Why’s Bilal Musharraf in Karachi?

  • Musharraf’s U.S.-based son, Bilal, is in Karachi.  He met today with renown humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi.  But is his Pakistan visit connected to his father’s political fate?  Has Musharraf built a home for himself in Karachi?  Or will he joining his son back to the U.S?  If Musharraf resigns, it is highly likely he will stay in Pakistan and receive permanent military security.  For all his flaws, he is not one to run off to a foreign land.

If Musharraf Goes, Who Will Succeed Him?

  • If and when Musharraf resigns or is impeached, the race to succeed Musharraf will begin.  Constitutionally, Senate Chairman Muhammad Mian Soomro would replace him temporarily.  Indirect elections, via an electoral college of all national and provincial legislative bodies, would choose the next president.  Potential candidates include Salmaan Taseer (who would be palatable to the PPP and establishment, but not the PML-N) and Asif Zardari.  The latter would be foolish to seek the presidency.  It would be seen as a blatant power grab and all arrows would be pointed toward him.
  • A National Hero for the Presidency: The best candidate for the presidency could be the man Musharraf’s son just met — Abdul Sattar Edhi.  No Pakistani is more beloved than him, it seems.  He and his wife have selflessly served Pakistan for decades.  Such a man is worthy of the presidency.  Presidential powers should be reduced, but Edhi should be tasked with the sole responsibility of poverty alleviation and reduction.  Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari should prove that they are changed men by donating $100 million each to a Poverty Reduction Fund, administered by President Edhi.  Other looters and absconders–including Musharraf’s banker cronies–should also donate the money they have stolen from Pakistan to this fund, perhaps in return for amnesty.  But a time in which Pakistan’s masses are suffocated by massive inflation and unemployment is not appropriate for Sharif and Zardari to celebrate.  They must repay their dues to the country they looted.

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The End of the Musharraf Era?

Pakistan’s governing coalition has announced that they will proceed immediately with moves to impeach Pervez Musharraf from the presidency.

People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Zardari read out a joint statement in which he said that the National Assembly will be called on August 11 to begin impeachment proceedings.  He said the deposed judges will be restored as per the Murree Declaration after the impeachment.  But in a reply to a question, Zardari did not clarify as to whether the judges would be restored via an executive order or constitutional package.  He seemed to insinuate the latter.  The Muslim League – Nawaz will rejoin the cabinet.

Musharraf views the situation as serious.  He will not be attending the Beijing Olympics, announced Pakistan’s Foreign Office.  In his place will be Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani.

The response from the media, as well as the Pakistani public, is skeptical and rightfully so.  The two major party heads, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, have gone to the brink many times and only to press the ‘reset’ button when mutual and public confidence dwindle.

There are a few reasons to be optimistic.  One, there was a joint press conference and Zardari read the statement.  In other words, Zardari and the PPP are ‘owning’ the statement.  Two, the PPP’s negotiating team consisted of its membership, Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman, who have been more representative of the February 18th mandate.  Rabbani, in particular, has been stridently anti-Musharraf and pro-judiciary.  At the same time, he has not antagonized Asif Zardari.

Though the declaration was clear, many questions remain:

  • Will the governing coalition follow through on its promises?  All of them or just some?
  • Has there been a compromise on the judges issue?
  • Do they have enough votes to impeach?
  • How long will the process take?
  • Impeachment is akin to a trial.  What will Musharraf be charged with?
  • Will Musharraf resign before or during the impeachment proceedings?  Or will he fight?  What weapons will he use?  Article 58(2)B?  The stock market and currency pressure?  He’s met with his political allies and legal advisers, including Sharifuddin Pirzada.
  • Is the Army willing to let go of Musharraf?  The Corps Commanders met this morning.
  • Have Washington, Riyadh, and Beijing given their consent?
  • Will the ANP and JUI-F, as Sheikh Rashid says, complicate things by tacking on their respective primary concerns?
  • What will happen if the impeachment proceedings go through, but enough votes are not secured?  Will the judges still be restored?  Will the PML-N still rejoin the cabinet?
  • Will there be dissenters from the PPP and PML-N?  Amin Fahim met with the PML-Q’s Hamid Nasir Chatta yesterday.  In a TV interview, Fahim defended the president and repeated Musharraf’s mantra of “Pakistan first.”  Though he could be a paper tiger, it appears that if the pro-impeachment camp has the numbers to impeach, it will be by a thin margin.  Every vote from the governing coalition matters.

It’s all unclear.  But there is a decent chance that by August 14th, Pakistan’s independence day, Pakistanis might become free of Pervez Musharraf.

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Editor:

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:
@PakistanPolicy

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.
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