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Could This Actually Be The End For Pervez Musharraf?

Pakistan’s Daily Times newspaper has on its website the headline DEAL IS DONE. By which it means Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military dictator since 1999 and architect of its post-9/11 strategic re-pivot back toward the U.S., is finally out of power. Musharraf’s condition for resignation, unsurprisingly, is indemnity from prosecution:

The coalition government has offered indemnity and security to President Pervez Musharraf if he resigns, sources privy to the developments said on Thursday.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif has agreed to change his rigid stance against the president, who is likely to finalise a decision in the next few days. The drop scene is likely in a few days, the sources said.

This has been predicted — without the degree of specificity on offer at the moment, but still — so many times that it’s hard to believe until Musharraf actually goes into exile. But the constellation of forces this time are overwhelming and implacably against Musharraf. So, you know, could be.

So: what now? The military actually runs nearly everything in Pakistan. One author termed it Military, Inc. because of its control over massive portions of the Pakistani economy. So we should expect the military’s role to recede behind a weak or pliant civilian leadership but not to disappear. And given the instability in Pakistan’s western frontier, where bin Laden and his homies are, it’s hard to imagine the new regime will be inclined to make counterterrorism its first priority. Indeed, we’ll soon know how much distance the coalition government wants to put between it and the U.S. in order to underscore the end of the Musharraf era.

Back when he was deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage told the 9/11 Commission something about Pakistan worth remembering. Armitage was a veteran of the Reagan Pentagon that built close ties with Pakistan based on Cold-War expediency, and remembered very well how the U.S. under Bush 41 and Clinton had jettisoned that relationship as soon as the Soviet Union pulled out of neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan often feels treated "like a Dixie Cup" by the U.S., Armitage said — used and then abandoned and then used again. The challenge for the next president will be to forge ties with the Pakistanis based on a stabler foundation than a narrow security focus.

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