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Musharraf on shaky ground over twin posts

New Delhi, June 6: The support from the US notwithstanding, Pervez Musharraf appears to be on a sticky wicket in his own country, where he faces the threat of being forced to give up either the President’s post or that of army chief.

Musharraf is scheduled to leave for the US later this month where he has been invited by President George W. Bush to be his personal guest at Camp David — a first-time honour for a South Asian leader. But within Pakistan, his stock seems to be falling with mounting pressure from the Opposition and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition partner of the Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali government in Islamabad. They have demanded that the Legal Framework Order — which allows Musharraf to hold the two key posts — be brought for a detailed discussion in Parliament.

The Order was issued by Musharraf after he made several amendments to the Pakistani Constitution to gain permission to hold both the posts. But so far, it has not come up for discussion in National Assembly and has, therefore, not been approved by it.

The MMA, which is in po- wer in the North-West Fron- tier Province, had last week passed the Shariat Bill in the Assembly and claimed to make the province the first in the country to be run according to the teachings of the Quran, despite fears that the move could clash with laws in the rest of the country.

Predictably, the development has come as a major embarrassment for both Musharraf and the Jamali government as it goes against their claim of turning Pakistan into a “moderate, progressive and modern Islamic state”.

The Shariat Bill has also reportedly drawn sharp criticism from the US, putting the Pakistani President in a spot, especially as it comes a few days before his much-publicised four-nation tour of the West, which includes the US.

India has refrained from making any official comment. But government sources said the recent events in Pakistan clearly indicate that its President is in trouble.

Musharraf cannot give up the chief of army’s post to satisfy the Opposition as he knows that is where the real power lies. On the other hand, stepping down from the President’s chair would not only take away the democratic fig-leaf that he continues to wear, but also create a situation where he may be forced to leave right after or, perhaps, even before his term ends.

However, Musharraf cannot remain silent and allow religious hardliners to grow and expand their influence. The passage of the Shariat Bill is seen by both him and the Jamali government as the first step by the religious parties towards challenging his authority.

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