Friday, August 15, 2008

The Musharraf Resignation

The Times reports on the imminent resignation of Pervez Musharraf:

Faced with desertions by his political supporters and the unsettling neutrality of the Pakistani military, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is expected to resign in the next few days rather than face impeachment, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats said Thursday.

His departure from office seems likely to unleash new instability in the country as the two main parties in the civilian government jockey for his share of power. It would also remove from the political stage the man who has served as the Bush administration’s main ally here for the last eight years.

The details of how Mr. Musharraf would exit, and whether he would be able to stay in Pakistan or would seek residency abroad, are now under discussion between representatives of Mr. Musharraf and the governing coalition, the politicians said.

Mr. Musharraf would probably leave in the “next 72 hours,” Sheik Mansoor Ahmed, a senior official of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the major party in the coalition, said Thursday.

What remained to be worked out were guarantees for Mr. Musharraf’s physical safety if he stayed in Pakistan, or where he would go into exile. Among the places that Mr. Musharraf is said to favor if he goes abroad are Dubai, Turkey, the United Kingdom or the United States, though his strong preference is to stay in Pakistan, Pakistani politicians familiar with the negotiations said.

Mr. Musharraf also wants immunity from prosecution for any impeachable deeds, which the governing coalition appears willing to grant if he steps down, they said. The question of who would succeed Mr. Musharraf is a subject of almost as much maneuvering within the coalition as the plan to get rid of him.

The Post explores the potential White House reaction:

Still unknown is whether Musharraf will reach out to the White House and seek to revive his once-close relationship with President Bush. U.S. officials said there had been no high-level contact with Musharraf for some time. They said that Bush's top national security advisers had counseled him "not to take the call" if Musharraf telephoned but that Bush had not yet communicated a decision on the matter.

…Although the United States imposed sanctions on Pakistan after Musharraf overthrew Sharif in 1999, the Bush administration became a vocal backer of his government when he declared allegiance to Washington following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His government has provided unprecedented U.S. access to Pakistani territory, including operational support to fight an Islamist insurgency that has spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan's remote tribal areas along the 1,500-mile-long Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

But while the administration supported Pakistan's return to democracy this spring, it was reluctant to sever ties with Musharraf, who remained president. Concerns over the coalition government's determination to continue the counterterrorism fight have increased measurably in recent weeks. U.S. officials have charged that Pakistan's powerful intelligence agencies -- long under military control -- have been aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that the government lacks the ability, and perhaps the desire, to control them.

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