The fabled deal between Musharraf and Bhutto appears to have been sealed with the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO,) and the Supreme Court ruled that the elections can proceed in the Assembly to elect Musharraf to another five-year term as President of Pakistan. However in a surprise part of the ruling the high court also stated that the election results could not be declared until after the Supreme Court decides on the challenges against him running for president.
In the background Chaudry Shujaat Hussein, leader of PML-Q which is Musharraf’s party is trying to stir up momentum against the NRO, since it must pass the assembly. He will be the odd-man out if it does pass as he can’t hope to field a candidate who could win in a contest against Benazir Bhutto for Prime Minister. The question remaining is do the Chaudry cousins have enough backing to upset the applecart?
President Musharraf said he will respect the Supreme Court decision, as he has all other decisions handed down by the court. It does put him in an odd position as he promised to remove the uniform after the election. Does this mean that he will wait the 11 days it will take to remove the uniform, hold out to November, or will he remove it and take that chance that he ends with no position, either head of Army or President? I will bet on the former.
In Pakistan they like to stretch a crisis out; however as chaotic as this may seem it clearly indicates that Pakistan’s government does have checks and balances in place, and they appear to be functional, even though the major parties are still “Feudally-aligned.”
This makes the government appear dysfunctional and weak to the simple and uneducated — something that Al Qaeda is going to play up in the hinterlands now that they’ve declared war on Pakistan.
In bad news, the Baitullah Mehsud Taliban in South Waziristan are now beheading soldiers as well, three were found yesterday, and that is what Mehsud said he was going to do if the goverment didn’t withdraw. The previous beheadings took place in North Waziristan, where there are Wazirs allied with the Uzbeks and chechens of the Al Qaeda core. With both stripes of Taliban now killing soldiers I suspect that the Army might put up a better fight before allowing themselves to be captured, and that there might have been an accomodation or deal of their own reached between the Mehsuds and Wazirs.