General Pervez Musharraf, the wily president of Pakistan, is in turbulent waters, his power diminished by his failed attempt to muzzle the Supreme Court. His role as America's ally in the war against terror has suffered setbacks. Now, with the impending return of exiled former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, and reports about byzantine negotiations between the factions involved the situation is murky. Musharraf might yet succeed in remaining as president but only by conceding ground. And which party -- Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party or Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League -- will emerge on top ? Pakistan's powerful militant Islamic groups are not going to be silent spectators as the events unfold.
Corruption was rampant during both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif's premiership. Between 1988 and 1999 both Bhutto and Sharif had served twice as prime minister. Under the constitution they are prohibited from serving a third term. They have made no secret of the fact that they will seek a constitutional amendment.
The General's support has eroded among the people of Pakistan. Pakistanis are restless and want change. Records of the years when Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif ruled Pakistan give little hope for expecting a clean, democratic government. And the army would be loath to relinquish the power sharing agreement with General Musharraf. In worst case scenario, martial law could again be declared and make it possible for a military-mullah coalition to take control. Should that come to pass, it would be difficult for America to justify supporting the regime. But history is full of instances of strange bedfellows embraced by America purely for selfish reasons. What our government says often has little resemblance with what it does.