2005 will prove challenge for Musharraf
ISLAMABAD: A year after two failed assassination attempts against him, the threat to President Pervez Musharraf remains strong and fears of a disastrous fallout should assassins finally succeed have not diminished, analysts said on Thursday.
Last week, Musharraf returned from an international tour that took in Latin America, the United States, Britain and France.
The trip, which he hoped would show his power stronghold at home, brought predictable reiterations of support from his key international allies.
But views in Pakistan on his progress since seizing power in 1999 remain mixed and analysts say western governments will have privately made clear that serious concerns still need to be addressed.
“The coming year will pose the greatest challenges to Musharraf,” said political commentator Najam Sethi. “Decisions on major controversial issues will have to be taken and cemented.”
High among concerns both at home and abroad has been Musharraf’s failure to plan properly for his succession, despite at least three known attempts on his life, blamed on Islamic extremists, since he joined the US-led war on terror in 2001. “If something happens to Musharraf, the whole game is up for grabs,” said Sethi. “Everything from the economic revival to the foreign policy initiatives will grind to a halt.” Optimists see signs of progress by Musharraf towards ensuring future domestic stability through reconciliation with liberal opponents. Prospects improved when Asif Ali Zardari, husband of Benazir Bhutto, was freed from jail in November.
But opinions are divided as to whether Musharraf is simply trying to divide the liberal opposition from its Islamic militant allies for short-term gain or is genuinely attempting to address concerns about the effects of his curbs on democracy. Karachi University professor Mutahir Ahmed said that Musharraf appeared to be trying to patch up the rift with Bhutto, a natural ally for his vision of a progressive and moderate Pakistan - not least to reduce his own political isolation.
“He needs to show Pakistanis and the international community that this is not a dictatorial government and his policies are basically supported by democratic forces,” he said. Critics argue that by freeing Zardari, Musharraf was simply trying to mute criticism of his plan to go back on a pledge to take off his uniform by December 31.
“There will be some matters of concern in European capitals and Washington,” said a European diplomat. “But nothing more, given that Musharraf is considered indispensable at the moment and there’s no civilian alternative seen as credible.” Foreign governments have been heartened by his gradual progress in the past year towards rapprochement with India, as well as his successes in cracking down on extremist groups. reuters