"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

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Musharraf's cards and the future of Pakistan

Steve Schippert reports from Threats Watch that representatives of Musharraf engaged in talks with Shahzad Sharif, the PML-N in an effort to become a large part in any future Pakistani government.

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) head Shahbaz Sharif dashed to Islamabad on Saturday and returned to Lahore in the evening after holding separate meetings with an aide of President Pervez Musharraf, the Saudi ambassador and a former bureaucrat, sources told Dawn.

The sources said the PML-N president had met Brig (retd) Niaz Ahmad, who passed a message from President Musharraf on to Mr Sharif about the formation of a national government before the general election.

Sources in the PML-N said the president had suggested Shahbaz Sharif to become a part of the proposed government. The sources said the president had also proposed a “future role” for Shahbaz Sharif after the elections.

Musharraf was to have formed a Coalition with the PPP and Bhutto, but since her assassination, Zardari has not been amicable to sharing power with Musharraf, until now. Dawn reports,

Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People’s Party said Monday it may work with Pervez Musharraf after elections next month. ''Our first priority is holding free and fair elections,'' said party spokesman Farhatullah Babar. ''All other things, working with Musharraf or not working with Musharraf, these are bridges which we will cross when they come. All options are open.''

Why is Musharraf working now with the brother of the leader he took power from in a military coup? Even more interesting, why is the PPP now interested in working with Musharraf?

The answer is simple, but complex. If the PML-N and PPP garner enough votes from the 18 February elections, they may gain 2/3 of the Parliament. With 2/3 control of Parliament, they can impeach Musharraf. Hence, Musharraf is trying to ensure his reign continues while pushing Pakistan towards democracy. While certainly self-serving, Musharraf does not believe Pakistan can survive the turmoil of an impeachment while battling the Taliban and Al Qaeda at its doorstep. Hence, he stated for a recent interview in The Australian,

President Pervez Musharraf has threatened to resign rather than face impeachment should the opposition seize government in general elections next month.

Mr Musharraf, asked about opposition threats to impeach him if, as seems likely, the main opposition parties win a two-thirds majority in the new National Assembly, said: “If that (impeachment) happens, let me assure that I’d be leaving office before they would do anything.

Musharraf must gain support from either the PPP or PML-N to ensure his presidency continues. This fact is his self-serving reason for negotiating with the PPP and the PML-N. However, if he cannot, he will resign to let these parties deal with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan to ensure the survival and integrity of Pakistan. This fact shows his support for the growth of democracy in Pakistan.

Appointing General Ashfaq Kayani, who is apolitical, believes in democracy, and is pro-Western is Musharraf's ace in case he is overthrown and turmoil commences between the PPP and PML-N.

General Kayani will step in as needed to ensure Pakistan continues on the road to democracy and simultaneously work to lessen the threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Having worked as the Military Secretary under Bhutto before, Kayani was instrumental in setting up Bhutto's return to Pakistan and the power sharing agreement between her and Musharraf.

Musharraf has positioned Pakistan smartly to ensure it continues to pursue democracy, whether he is a part of this transition or not. He has expertly positioned Pakistan to begin battle with the Taliban and Pakistan. While, he would prefer to deal with the PPP since they are anti-Taliban/Al Qaeda (more so now since both are complicit in her assassination), he would also work with the PML-N (who is rather pro-Taliban/Al Qaeda) to ensure his country survives its upcoming battle. Even if both parties ban together to depose him (in which he will leave willingly), democracy will prevail and be strengthened while General Kayani will continue to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

All powers in Pakistan are awaiting the results of the 18 February election. They will be free and fair, Musharraf will guarantee this because democracy, above all else, is his ultimate goal for Pakistan.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda believe they have destroyed any hope for democracy in Pakistan by killing Bhutto, but Musharraf has several aces up his sleeves to ensure its continuation.

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