Musharraf unlikely to face impeachment: Analysts

Islamabad, February 19:

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will become a powerless leader at best — and could lose his job — after his parliamentary supporters conceded defeat in elections, analysts said today.

The concession by the Pakistan Muslim League-Q left the parties of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, the slain opposition leader, on course for victory.

After holding a firm grip on power for eight years, the former general will have to make frantic deals with a hostile parliament that could in theory call for his impeachment, the analysts said.

“Musharraf has become a lame duck president,” said Hasan Askari, a political analyst teaching at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

“For him the most crucial issue will be his political survival rather than fighting the war against terrorism.” Askari said Musharraf will “find it difficult to work with the opposition that wants to undo most of the steps taken by him after the suspension of the constitution in November” under a state of emergency.

The president’s influence had already been eroded by his November resignation as army chief after months of political turmoil, a move that robbed him of his main source of power, Askari added.

Strategic Forecasting, private Washington-based analysts, called the election results a “disastrous outcome” for the president’s allies. “It appears that Musharraf was no longer able to make use of the state machinery to rig the vote,” they said.

Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, has been uncompromising in his calls for the man he calls “dictator” to step down. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party still mistrusts Musharraf after the death of its leader in a gun and suicide attack at a rally on December 27.

Analysts said with neither party likely able to form a government on their own, Musharraf may try to split the PPP from Sharif with the promise of the prime minister’s post if they join with independent MPs who are loyal to him.

The opposition could unite to get the two-thirds majority they need to seek Musharraf’s ouster through impeachment, although analysts see this was unlikely because Musharraf retains the power to dissolve the government.

Shafqat Mahmood, a political analyst, said any attempt at manipulating the opposition would fail. Dawn said in its editorial the electorate “appears to have punished” many candidates who were close to Musharraf.