Who gets control of the nukes?

Reply Mon 18 Aug, 2008 01:09 pm
Pakistan's Musharraf resigns

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf quit office on Monday to avoid impeachment charges, nearly nine years after the key U.S. ally in its campaign against terrorism took power in a coup.

Speculation the former army chief would resign had mounted since the fractious coalition government, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said this month it planned to impeach him.

"Whether I win or lose, the nation will lose," Musharraf, 65, said of the impeachment process in an hour-long televised address in which he passionately defended his record.

"The honor and dignity of the country will be affected and in my view, the honor of the office of president will also be affected."

Prolonged jockeying and uncertainty over Musharraf's position had hurt financial markets in the nuclear-armed country of 165 million people, and raised concerns in Washington and elsewhere that it was distracting from efforts to tackle violent militants, especially in the areas bordering Afghanistan.

Coalition officials had said Musharraf sought immunity from prosecution but he said in his speech he was asking for nothing.

"I don't want anything from anybody. I have no interest. I leave my future in the hands of the nation and people," he said.

One main coalition party, that of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif whom Musharraf ousted in 1999, has insisted he face trial for treason. Bhutto's party says parliament should decide.

Musharraf ended his final address as president with the words: "May God protect Pakistan, may God protect you all. Long live Pakistan forever."

Pakistani stocks jumped 4 percent on the news and the rupee, which had lost a quarter of its value this year, began strengthening.

"It eliminates all the uncertainty in the market," said Asad Iqbal, managing director at Ismail Iqbal Securities. "The government will hopefully start concentrating on the economy ... they have no excuses now."

Musharraf has been isolated since his allies lost parliamentary elections in February. But in his speech he defiantly lambasted the coalition for what he described as failed economic policies, and said he had brought prosperity.

The powerful army, which has ruled for more than half the country's 61-year history, has publicly kept out of the controversy over its old boss, and no protests over Musharraf's resignation were expected.

Indeed, celebrations broke out across the country after the announcement, with people dancing and handing out sweets.

"Thank God he's resigned. The country will do much better now," said Mohammad Ilyas, 30, in Karachi.


The United States, apparently resigned to Musharraf's exit, had said Pakistan's leadership was a Pakistani issue.

After the announcement, President George W. Bush said he appreciated Musharraf's efforts to fight al Qaeda and other extremists, and was committed to a strong Pakistan that strengthened democracy and fought terrorism.

"President Bush looks forward to working with the government of Pakistan on the economic, political and security challenges they face," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Old rival India reacted cautiously. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters: "India will continue to have an amicable relation with Pakistan in the days to come."

Pakistan is committed to a peace process with India launched under Musharraf, but India fears a weak civilian government will not have his influence over the army and military spy agency, which India suspects has a hand in most attacks on its soil.

The chairman of the Senate, Mohammadmian Soomro, will be acting president until a new one is elected within 30 days, but it is not clear who that will be. Traditionally, Pakistan's president has been a figurehead, although under Musharraf the office was much more powerful.

Leaders of the ruling coalition, which had prepared impeachment charges against Musharraf focusing on alleged violations of the constitution, welcomed the resignation.

Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zaradri, who leads her party, said it was a momentous day for democracy and the people had been able "to roll back the frontiers of dictatorship."

He recollected one of his wife's sayings, that "democracy is the best revenge." Bhutto was assassinated in a December 27 suicide attack the government blamed on an al Qaeda-linked militant.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a senior member of Bhutto's party, also welcomed what he called the end of dictatorship but warned members of parliament they had the responsibility of proving the success of democracy.

A career army officer, Musharraf narrowly survived several al Qaeda-inspired assassination attempts.

Critics say he suffered from a "savior complex" and believed he was indispensable. He promised to return Pakistan to democracy but opponents say he stifled political freedom.

As challenges mounted, Musharraf reverted to autocratic ways. His downfall will be traced back to March 9, 2007, when he tried to force Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to resign.

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Reply Mon 18 Aug, 2008 05:15 pm
Now Musharraf will go in disgrace, threatened with impeachment and abandoned by most of his cronies, who grew rich under his rule and are now sidling shamelessly in the direction of the new power-brokers. The country has moved seamlessly from a moth-eaten dictatorship to a moth-eaten democracy. Six months after the old, morally obtuse, political gangs returned to power, the climate has further deteriorated. The widower Bhutto and his men are extremely unpopular. The worm-eaten tongues of long discredited politicians and resurrected civil servants are on daily display. Removing Musharraf, who is even more unpopular, might win the politicians some time, but not for long.

Amidst the hullabaloo there was one hugely diverting moment last week that reminding one of pots and kettles. Asif Zardari, the caretaker-leader of the People’s Party who runs the government and is the second richest man in the country (funds that accrued when his late wife was Prime Minister) accused Musharraf of corruption and siphoning official US funds to private bank accounts. For once the noise of laughter drowned the thunder of money.

Musharraf’s departure will highlight the problems that confront the country, which is in the grip of a food and power crisis that is creating severe problems in every city. Inflation is out of control and was approaching the 15 percent mark in May 2008. Gas (used for cooking in many homes) prices have risen by 30 percent. Wheat, the staple diet of most people has seen a 20 percent price hike since November 2007 and while the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation admits that the world's food stocks are at record lows there is an additional problem in Pakistan. Too much wheat is being smuggled into Afghanistan to serve the needs of the NATO armies. The poor are the worst hit, but middle-class families are also affected and according to a June 2008 survey, 86 percent of Pakistanis find it increasingly difficult to afford flour on a daily basis, for which they blame their own new government.

Other problems persist. The politicians are weak and remain divided on the restoration of the judges sacked by Musharraf. The Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, is the most respected person in the country. Zardari is reluctant to see him back at the head of the Supreme Court. A possible compromise might be to offer him the Presidency. It would certainly unite the country for a short time.

Over the last fifty years the US has worked mainly with the Pakistan Army. This has been its preferred instrument. Nothing has changed. How long before the military is back at the helm?
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Reply Mon 18 Aug, 2008 08:30 pm
Yep, in all likelyhood the military, which has retained power in Pakistan for more than thirty years, will retain control of the nukes.
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Reply Thu 21 Aug, 2008 02:59 pm
If i were you sir I would have exposed the criminals manipulations.
ny the word criminals those who had nurchered, supported the barbaric culture.
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