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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pakistan Elections: B. Raman on Wriggling Room

Here is an interesting take by veteran Indian journalist B. Raman. I say interesting because he fails to mention Aitezaz Ahsan. Was it intentional? Does he think that Zardari would give the PMship to anyone but Aitezaz?

Musharraf: Cohabitation or exit? B Raman

The expression co-habitation came into vogue in France when the late Francois Mitterrand, the leader of the French Socialist Party, was the President in the 1980s. In the elections to the French National Assembly held when he was the President, his party was badly defeated and the Gaullists under Jacques Chirac won a majority.

Mitterrand chose to interpret the results as not reflecting on his presidency and he, as the President, and Chirac, as the prime minister, decided to co-habit. Under the French Constitution, the President is not just a figure-head. He has more powers than the British prime minister, but less than the US President. All powers relating to decision-making in respect of foreign policy and national security are exercised by the President who chairs cabinet meetings. The prime minister exercises all powers relating to domestic policy. The co-habitation arrangement between Mitterrand and Chirac worked with some periodic tensions, though.

The US and other Western countries are interested in Musharraf continuing as President. They don't trust Sharif because of his links with the Jamaat-e-Islami of Qazi Hussain Ahmed. The Jamaat-e-Islami boycotted the elections, but its cadres campaigned for Nawaz's party in Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province. They would like to work for a co-habitation arrangement with Musharraf as the president and Amin Fahim or Shahbaz Sharif as the prime minister. Will they succeed or will Musharraf have to quit? The answer to this question lies as much in Washington DC as in Islamabad. Musharraf still has some wriggle room, if he wants to exercise it. Will he wriggle or call it quits?


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