The perceived isolation of President Pervez Musharraf and his sidelining after the swearing-in of the new government has not happened in a haphazard way but is the result of a well-thought-out strategy, one of his aides said on Friday.
"It was decided a long time ago that Musharraf would take a backseat after the 2008 general elections and he has done so as per the plan," the aide said in a background discussion with this correspondent on condition that nothing would be attributed to him.
"There is no shock for the president in the new milieu except for the defeat of the Pakistan Muslim League," he said. The aide said as per the original sketch, the martial law was to remain in force during the first three years of Musharraf’s rule, the following five years were to be under semi-martial law with the president doffing his uniform at its end, and in the last phase full democracy was to be restored by holding fair, free and transparent elections. "Musharraf as president was to go in the background," he added.
The aide said in the concluding phase, it was to be left to the winning politicians to manage and govern the country according to their own plans and policies. They, he said, were to set their priorities as per the aspirations of the 170 million people of Pakistan.
He said everything was executed as per the script although considerable disruption was caused by the judicial crisis, which also spawned an intense controversy over Musharraf’s saying adieu to the military service.
"Things will take the natural course," the confidant said without elaborating when he was asked as to how the prevailing system will run smoothly and for how long when ministers of a major ruling coalition partner and its government in the majority province will continue to scoff at the president and keep him at a mile’s distance.
However, he said in a categorical tone that Musharraf had no plans to step down. The confidant said PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari was working more prudently and astutely as compared to Nawaz Sharif and was trying to bury the hatchet with all and sundry. He was appreciative of Zardari’s landmark visit to the Nine Zero and the slogan of "Altaf Zardari Bhai Bhai!"
He said both sides had realised well that their confrontation would not serve the people of Sindh while mutual cooperation would result in their prosperity and welfare. The confidant agreed with the impression that Nawaz Sharif was yet to "dismount the horse" in opposing Musharraf. He was of the view that Pakistan would certainly be much better off and its future brighter if Nawaz also patched up with the president and gave up his policy of confrontation.
He regretted that all efforts, which were launched when secret talks were opened with the PPP much before the polls to achieve this, had borne no fruit. According to the confidant, hawkish elements like Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Khwaja Mohammad Asif surrounding Nawaz kept urging him to maintain the hard-line stance against Musharraf. However, he claimed that the PML-N leaders like Shahbaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar advised Nawaz otherwise.
But, the confidant said, the PPP has a different policy, as it knows that there would be a conflict and clash if Musharraf goes. At the same time, he said, it also faces international urging to work with Musharraf smoothly.
The confidant said shortages of food, power and gas on the eve of the elections were mainly responsible for the PML-Q’s electoral rout. The confidant said the martyrdom of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto further damaged the prospects of the PML-Q, which was already facing severe infighting in certain districts over the distribution of tickets. Even before that, the PML-Q was in a bad shape organisationally.