Rawalpindi, Feb.16 : In the last nine years, there were few in Pakistan's political class who had the courage to stand up to President Pervez Musharraf, who was also the country's chief of army staff.
But with him deciding to doff his uniform and become a civilian president, as also his many unpopular actions in the last eleven months, such as the sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Lal Masjid stand-off and the assassination of former Premier Benazir Bhutto, politicians contesting the February 18 polls have decided that he has had his time in the sun.
Take for example, former Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who is a close friend of Musharraf. Campaigning in his hometown, he never once mentions the president.
"I remind them of my successes. Of course, the popularity of President Musharraf is not the same as it once was," the New York Times quotes Rashid, as saying.
After 11 months of political turmoil, Musharraf is so unpopular that members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q, are distancing themselves from him.
According to the NYT, a billboard of Musharraf along the main highway outside the capital, Islamabad, was taken down recently.
Rashid Ahmed, has contested seven elections for the national assembly, and insists that Musharraf posters in his district mean nothing.
He restricts his campaign speeches strictly to local issues, hugging shopkeepers, kissing babies and talking almost entirely about the schools, hospitals and traffic and sewage improvements that he has made or is planning to make.
"We had four good years, and last year was a bad year. Mistakes were made, I have said that," the paper quotes Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the PML (Q)'s secretary general, as saying.
Pakistani analysts are now predicting that the PML(Q), which has dominated both houses of the national assembly and three of the four provincial assemblies, will fare poorly in Monday's elections and will not garner enough seats to form a government.
Hussain and Ahmed both say that they have been told to run as independents, but both say Musharraf is a friend, and a political stabbing in the back is not under their consideration.