Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is The Deal On?

According to the Associated Press, Musharraf and BB have reached an agreement on the issue of the uniform. A report in Dawn today laid out exactly what the PPP expects from Musharraf if a deal is to go through.
Sources said Ms Bhutto told the government side that her party’s parliamentarians would resign if Gen Musharraf attempted to get himself elected president in uniform from the present assemblies.

The PPP would, however, not resign from the assemblies if Gen Musharraf were to contest the election from the present assemblies after leaving his military post but would boycott the proceedings.

She is said to have offered to vote for the president if he were to offer himself for election without uniform by the new assemblies after the next general elections.

So basically getting elected from the present assemblies in uniform is bad, getting elected from the present assemblies out of uniform is less bad, and getting elected from new assemblies out of uniform is best. This much makes sense. What is also easy to understand is how BB, contrary to many people's expectations, is actually upping her demands now that Nawaz Sharif is a viable political player again. This is possible because BB sees Nawaz Sharif as a bigger rival to Musharraf than to her. According to Benazir, in other words, Musharraf is affected by Nawaz Sharif's return a lot more than she is. This is turn means that BB can afford to demand more from Musharraf, because the latter has lost even more bargaining leverage in the last two weeks and is more desperate to make a deal. This is why we have seen the PPP's demands go from "You must be out of uniform by the end of the year" to "You must be out of uniform before the elections".

Another element to consider is intra-party politics. Reports suggest the non-BB part of the PPP senior leadership is not terribly keen on bailing Musharraf out at this point. Whether this is due to genuine political beliefs or mere calculation is both unclear and irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact BB can not afford to be seen to be supporting a military man as President. This is another reason why, in my estimation, she is insisting on Musharraf doffing his uniform before the election. The AP report linked to earlier seems to confirm that Musharraf has now agreed to do so. We'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Update: Shaikh Rashid, who for some reason thinks he's still Information Minister, is flapping away and has said that the deal is "80% done". He says that the issues of the uniform, the corruption cases against BB, and the extent of Presidential power seem to have been resolved. All that remains to be ironed out, it seems, is the law prohibiting two time Prime Ministers from running again. We've been through this deal/no deal bullshit a number of times the last few weeks so there is no reason to believe this is actually the case. As I said earlier, we'll just have to wait and see.

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