Saeed Minhas writes from islamabad: Owing to the prevailing uneasiness within army ranks, Gen. Musharraf is finding it hard to use his trump card; i.e. martial law to stem the rising political tide threatening not only his dual role in office but his grip on political, economic and military affairs of the country and is likely to give way to one of his trusted comrades to command the army while ensuring for himself the office of a civilian president, disclosed highly placed sources in the presidency. Great deal of discontentment is quite obvious within the army ranks because two companies of Pakistan army are currently hostage to tribal militants. This latest kidnapping has happened on the heel of successful exchange of five army men for twenty million rupees in the same tribal belt, which is becoming a no-go area for all sorts of government functionaries, especially after the Lal Mosque killings. Sources privy to certain discussions within the presidential camp revealed that last minute changing-of-colours by the PML (Q) has added to the anxiety of the President, because he never considered Chaudhary Shujaat and company worthy enough to take a stand against him much less black mail him at this crucial stage of multi-pronged power wrangling. At a stage when his deal with Benazir Bhutto was all but finalized and he was prepared to send Nawaz Sharif behind the bars upon his return to country on this September 10, he was given the shock of a life time by his hand-made political gurus. Sources were of the view that as per deal with the Peoples Party, Musharraf had agreed to remove the necessary clauses of the constitution through existing parliament which would pave way for Benazir Bhutto (and Nawaz Sharif) to seek the office of the prime minister for the third time. The deal also included to withdraw all on going cases against all politicians who have served any public office during 1988 and 1999, leaving those already stand convicted by the courts. Since any move to amend the constitution has to be endorsed by the PML (Q) legislators, Chaudhary Shujaat the head of Q league has refused to be a rubber stamp any more knowing that many of his party men are in the process of contacting his rival Nawaz Sharif or has already vowed to join Nawaz League. Sources claim that Chaudhary Shujaat has taken this decision to avoid a situation where a former military dictator Zia ul Haq was defeated by his own handpicked politicians in 1985 when they elected Syed Fakhar Imam instead of Safdar Mehmood as speaker National Assembly and there was not much Zia could do about that because one night before the voting all politicians including Gen. (Retd) Noor Khan despite some objections accepted the nomination of Safdar Mehmood as speaker at a dinner hosted for the parliamentarians by Gen. Ziaul Haq at his camp office. A senior Q leaguer, seeking anonymity commented on this by saying that “Generals can rule the country on the sheer basis of their military might but they certainly cannot trade the troubled waters of politics when it comes to crucial times like the one Gen. Musharraf is facing now.” Some senior parliamentarians including former Prime Minister Zafar Ullah Jamali, Hamid Nasir Chattha and others have also conveyed to Gen. Musharraf to review his decision of sending Nawaz Sharif behind bars upon his return. They fear that by doing so, the General might turn him into a popular leader whereas if he would be allowed a free home return, he would not be able to do more than what Benazir Bhutto did in 1986 when she returned from exile during Ziaul Haq’s times. Unable to digest the overwhelming political support she could not survive more than 18 months in power much less because of army but more so because of her failure to control the politicians and bureaucracy. They have argued that Nawaz Sharif would not be able to control the political mess in the country and not even the warring factions within his own party because power dynamics have changed so much during the past eight years that party politics or cults would play a very marginal role in the coming elections. Nevertheless, many Nawaz League politicians have started collecting party funds from industrialists, considered to be strong supporters of Nawaz Sharif, in all major cities and according to party insiders hundreds of millions have already been collected by some big names in Nawaz League. Political heavy weights have conveyed to Gen. Musharraf that rise of a vibrant civil society backed by electronic media is likely to change the complexion of Pakistani politics in the coming elections and if General would ensure free and fair elections, a hung parliament would emerge which would ultimately bring the army into limelight because all the recent trends have shown that like old habits die hard politicians are yet to absorb the democratic spirit of agree to disagree and they would ultimately go for the army protection. Some senior technocrats, wishing to remain anonymous have also conveyed to General Musharraf that he should honourably transfer his uniform role to a man of his choice, get himself elected as president by handing over the reigns of power to National Security Council (NSC) and hold completely free and fair elections without involving the expertise of Rangers, who believed to have engineered the 2002 elections. This way, technocrats believe that NSC would not only get fully legitimized, military would continue to have an active role in the governance and western countries would be less worried about command and control issues over nuclear arsenals. For this the technocrats have proposed Gen. Musharraf to call an all parties conference in one of the Gulf countries, preferably in Saudia Arabia and reach a Nawaz-Ishaq like consensus on peaceful transfer and transition of power. Sources claim that strategic meetings are reviewing all the proposals and since time is running out for the embattled Gen. Musharraf, a decision has to come before September 10—the announced and proposed date of landing of Nawaz Sharif at Islamabad Airport. Gen. Musharraf is believed to have opened his mind to all sides now, especially after the Q leagues possible threat to ditch him in the ongoing war of nerves. If the sanity prevailed, sources say that gen. would have an honourable exit, otherwise going by the history, Ayub or Zia fate might become an eventuality.