Thursday, August 30, 2007

Will Musharraf step down as army chief?

Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf still can't seem to catch a break. Indeed, since the creation of Dictators of the World, I haven't found a single thing that's managed to go his way. The trend doesn't change this week, because once again, Musharraf's grasp on power has managed to slip even further through his fingers.

After he seized power in a military coup d'etat in 1999, Musharraf has managed to hold onto power by his constitutionally disallowed, but strategically important, position as both president and leader of Pakistan's armed forces. Now it appears that Musharraf has promised that he will be stepping down as army chief before national elections in 2008 as part of a byzantine power sharing arrangement with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Now, I wouldn't bet the farm that Musharraf will actually step down as army chief, but the fact that he's been put into a political position where he's had to promise to do so speaks volumes about the precipitous political implosion of the man once popularly hailed as Pakistan's political savior.

If he were to remove himself as leader of the armed forces, Musharraf is doubtlessly aware that his dual career as president would be finished. His popularity with the public is at an all time low, and as a mere civilian leader, he'd be a juicy target for removal by yet another military coup. If Musharraf is serious about stepping down as leader of the army, it's a mere prelude for leaving office - and likely Pakistan itself - altogether.

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