Islamabad, Mar 14: If the PPP and the PML-N leaders privy to the latest political developments in Pakistan are to be believed, President Pervez Musharraf has offered to shun his power to dissolve the Parliament if the two Opposition parties agree to drop their insistence on re-instating former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Under the Pakistani Constitution, Musharraf retains the right to dissolve parliament, appoint an interim administration for about three months and oversee fresh elections. Critics say that in the past these powers (to dissolve parliament) have been frequently abused to dismiss elected governments during times of intense disagreement, rather than resolve political disputes through debate.
Musharraf's offer marks the most significant concession by him since his party was comprehensively defeated in last month's parliamentary elections, reported the Financial Times. "The power to dissolve parliament is the most potent weapon in Musharraf's arsenal. His offer to forgo that weapon means that he is getting desperate," the paper quoted a senior Pakistan government official familiar with the negotiations, as saying.
"The danger for Musharraf is that Iftikhar Chaudhry's return as chief justice would immediately see him return to the cases against him. It is possible that the presidential election may be declared null and void," said a senior Opposition leader who is also a member of the new Assembly.
Analysts believe that Musharraf faces intense dangers from the new parliament. Husain Haqqani, a professor of international studies at Boston university, said: "If Musharraf agrees to becoming a figurehead president, maybe he can survive for now. But if he insists on being all powerful, his political future is in jeopardy."
Nasim Zehra, a respected political commentator, said: "It is clear that Pakistan is embarking irreversibly on the road to greater democracy... The era of one man rule is ending." The PPP and PML-N, which together form a majority in the 342-seat National Assembly, agreed last week to restore to their posts all the judges, including Chaudhry who was dismissed by Musharraf within hours of his imposing emergency rule in November.
Musharraf sacked Chaudhry just before he was due to rule on a challenge to Musharraf's decision in October to contest the Presidential election while still serving as army chief. Constitutional experts say that Musharraf's presidential contest was in violation of a law that requires all civil servants, including the army chief, to wait two years before running for political office.