Sulking Musharraf has retreated into a 'mental bunker' post-polls

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London/Washington, Feb.24 : Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is "sulking" and has "retreated into a mental bunker, a British daily has quoted a senior PML (Q)official, as saying.

According to the Guardian, Musharraf thinks everyone is out to get him and only listens to a small circle of close aides, and with this dangerous mindset, "he could decide to hit back."

The London newspaper says the "retired general still trots out for afternoon tennis, enjoys a game of bridge a few times a week, pulls on a cigar in the evenings and nurses a glass of whisky."

Visitors still call to see him at Army House, the marble-floored Rawalpindi residence of Pakistan's military chiefs, even though he retired three months ago. "It has been renamed Presidential Lodge. The normal routine is functioning," says Musharraf's spokesman Rashid Qureshi.

The spectacular rout of his Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party at the polls has shorn the retired commando of his political base, leaving him isolated and exposed.

"He's been sulking. He's retreated into a mental bunker, which is not healthy. He thinks everyone is out to get him and only listens to a small circle. It's a dangerous mindset to be in at this point in time. He could decide to hit back," the PML (Q) official said.

Musharraf's bad mood stems from the prospect of Nawaz Sharif returning to power. Sharif.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) has vowed to oust Musharraf at the earliest opportunity.

"The nation has given its verdict. The sooner he accepts it the better," said Sharif.

Musharraf still retains the support of U.S. President George Bush, who also sounds less enthusiastic about Sharif's political resurgence.

"The Americans want a German-style grand coalition including the PPP. They want Musharraf to stick around, even if it's a diminished Musharraf. British officials have been more coy, but many Pakistanis believe Whitehall is singing from a hymn sheet drawn up in the White House, PML (Q) sources told the Guardian.

Supporters say if it comes to an impeachment motion, Musharraf may not fight to the end.

The newspaper also says that a new home, complete with security bunkers, is under construction on the edge of Islamabad, and adds that whether he needs to move in there any time soon would become clearer in the coming weeks.

However, Stratfor, a US-based news intelligence service, opines in a commentary that Musharraf will tough it out and try to keep himself in power by dividing the opposition.

It also says that it is unlikely that he will be able to prevent the emergence of an aggressive parliament and government.

The government's inability to engage in smart vote rigging or "electoral engineering" clearly underscores Musharraf's vulnerable position.

"Simply put, Musharraf has been left alone to defend himself against an assertive parliament. Therefore, to sustain himself, Musharraf is trying to exploit the military's unwillingness to unseat him abruptly, the opposition parties' difference of opinion on the restoration of the judiciary and the ambiguity in the US position on his presidency.

While there are growing calls even from the political parties for Musharraf to step down, there appears to be a developing consensus among his political opponents, the army and even the United States that the president's exit or regime-change should take place in an orderly manner.

The army, through its actions, has already shown that it will neither actively oust Musharraf nor do anything to sustain him," according to Stratfor.

This cautious approach, the commentary goes on to point out, has its limits, because a clash between President Musharraf and the emerging government is inevitable.

In the event of a gridlock resulting from a struggle for supremacy between the presidency and parliament, the army is likely to favour the good of the many over that of the one.

Therefore, President Musharraf's fight against the legislature will be short-lived, the real issue being how the army as an institution will reach an arrangement with the civilian institutions.

A more unified political landscape, assertive judicial and legal community, growing civil society and proliferating media will be pushing for a greater civilian role. This renegotiation of civil-military balance will be the real and more long-term contention which will have implications for many years to come, the STRATFOR commentary says.

ANI

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