Sunday, June 1, 2008

More Changes In Pakistan

Image credit: CIA World Factbook

Pakistan's been seeing a lot of changes lately, many of them not good. This probably doesn't fall into the "not good" category, but I doubt it's good news, either:

Pressed by a swirl of rumors that he was about to be ousted, President Pervez Musharraf insisted this week that he was staying, and President Bush on Friday confirmed his continued support with a reassuring phone call to Mr. Musharraf, the White House said.

Musharraf Denies He's Stepping Down

Oh, good heavens - the dreaded phone call of everlasting support. He's toast:

[T]he Pakistani military confirmed that General Kayani had removed a loyalist to Mr. Musharraf from one of the army’s most significant posts.

The change involved the leader of the Triple-One Brigade, a unit based in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, which is responsible for the security of the president and of the capital, Islamabad. It is commonly regarded as the “coup” brigade because it has been used by the army chief to topple civilian opponents.

Musharraf Denies He's Stepping Down

Once he resigned as head of the army, this day seemed inevitable. The army is the center of power in Pakistan. To not be in control of it meant that Musharraf no longer could control his own destiny. Once his party lost the election last February, he had much less political standing, too. Apparently, there's a new leader in the country.

It appears that the vultures are circling:

But a former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who is the leader of the junior party in the coalition, said Wednesday that Mr. Musharraf should be impeached.

Mr. Sharif, who was removed as prime minister by Mr. Musharraf in a coup in October 1999, said he could forgive Mr. Musharraf for the personal indignities he suffered after the coup. But, he said, the nation could not forgive Mr. Musharraf for the damage he had done during his military rule.

Musharraf Denies He's Stepping Down

Lotus adds:

Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the ruling coalition in Parliament and head of the Pakistani People’s Party (Benazir Bhutto’s old power-base), has previously sounded somewhat supportive of Musharraf, but now he’s joined coalition-partner Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister and head of the PML-N party, in calling for him to get out now.

Adding their voices to the chorus, several Pakistani newspapers are editorializing that he’s gotta go (one calling him “King Musharraf,” a reference to Nepal’s freshly-deposed King Gyanendra).

Pakistan about to boot Musharraf

To make matters worse, A.Q. Khan, the physicist who confessed to running a nuclear weapons ring that his government didn't know about, has apparently recanted:

The Pakistani scientist blamed for running a rogue network that sold nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya has recanted his confession, telling ABC News the Pakistani government and President Perez Musharraf forced him to be a "scapegoat" for the "national interest."

"I don't stand by that," Dr. A.Q. Khan told ABC News in a 35-minute phone interview from his home in Islamabad, where he has been detained since "confessing" that he ran the nuclear network on his own, without the knowledge of the Pakistani government.

Pakistani Bomb Scientist Breaks Silence

To which I can only respond - gee, go figure. A scientist in a military dictatorship wasn't the one who was selling the nuclear weapons.

What this tells me is that Khan is pretty sure that Musharraf is no longer the power that matters in Pakistan. If he was, Khan most likely wouldn't dare to say this. Whatever hold Musharraf had over him is clearly no longer enough to keep Khan quiet.

Over the weeks ahead, we'll see how this plays out. One thing's for sure, though - Musharraf's days as head of the Pakistani government are numbered.

(A tip of the hat to Lotus, whose article alerted me to this and provided several of the links in this article.)

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