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.