The stakes are high. After eight years of military dictatorship, Pakistan is spoiling for another round of democratic experiments. The battle is on for a new protagonist and a new cast of characters. Who will rule Pakistan and in what manner? Basically, the questions everybody wants answered are: Is Musharraf going? If he goes, who comes in? Meanwhile, what happens to Pakistan's flock of Islamist terrorists and nuclear weapons?
Musharraf cannot rule the country without ruling over its most powerful institution, the army. "Without his uniform, Musharraf is dead meat," say western diplomats with experience of Pakistan.
. The army is a one-boss outfit and there is no room for a civilian centre of power.
Musharraf, however, needs to have a bigger gameplan than merely staying in power. The next dates to watch out for on the Pakistani calendar are October 15 when the presidential vote by lawmakers has to be held, and November 15 when Musharraf's current five-year presidential term as well as assembly term expire. A lot of political bloodletting is expected by then.