Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has signed off on a deal that will probably allow him to remain as President but in which he will be forced to resign as Chief of Staff of the Army:
The exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto said Wednesday that Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, had agreed to resign as army chief as part of a nearly completed deal that would allow him to serve another term as president if he is re-elected and allow her to return to Pakistan to run for prime minister.
“Our understanding is that he will contest elections as a civilian,” Ms. Bhutto said in a telephone interview from London, where she has been in negotiations with the general’s emissaries. But a second central question — whether he would run for election with the sitting Parliament voting this fall, or wait until a new and more independent one is formed after elections in January, was “still under discussion,” she said.
The agreement remained a “cliffhanger,” she said. “A lot has gone right, but still there are a couple of issues to be hashed out.”
No doubt some of what remains to be "hashed out" is the exact manner in which Musharraf will finally resign as Army chief. He made a similar promise to 6 religious parties back in 2002 that he would resign from the Army and then reneged. Bhutto wants to pin Musharraf down so that he can't go back on his word again.
And from Musharraf's point of view, he wants to be able to tie Bhutto to her promise to get the secular parties to support his bid for another term. Such support would almost guarantee a Musharraf win at the polls in December or January, depending on when all the parties agree on a timetable for the election.
Expect a tougher line against foreign fighters in Pakistan allied with the Taliban by a Bhutto-Musharraf coalition but still kid glove treatment for the Taliban. And don't expect relations with Afghanistan to improve much either. All parties in Pakistan agree that Afghanistan is in their sphere of influence and they detest NATO involvement next door.