Islamabad, Aug.9 : President Pervez Musharraf may have taken some positive steps to promote Pakistan as a modern and enlightened Islamic state during the last nine years, but for an overwhelming majority of the peoples' elected representatives, he remains the most unpopular man in the country for various reasons, says an editorial in the Daily Times.
This, the editorial further goes on to say, has strengthened the lawmakers resolve to ensure his exit as President, and there is a popular view that Musharraf should not "dig his heels in for a fight and bank on the army high command, he should read the writing on the wall and quit immediately."
According to the editorial, if Musharraf does not back down and opts to challenge the motion of impeachment against him, Pakistan is headed for a period of "instability and system dysfunctionality", which will ensure that "everyone will be a loser, the country most of all."
The paper predicts also that even if Musharraf resigns, Pakistan under civilian rule will continue to wrestle with myriad problems, but a saving grace will be that the "politicians will not have anyone to blame but themselves" should the system of governance go awry.
The question that is being asked in Pakistan's political and intellectual circles is what has made Asif Zardari change his mind so dramatically to accommodate Nawaz Sharif on the Musharraf issue as well as the issue relating to the restoration of the sacked judiciary.
According to the editorial, Zardari has literally been forced to revamp his party's earlier strategy on "working" with President Musharraf because a majority of the rank and file of his Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was not fully supportive of Zardari's desire for political "reconciliation" with President Musharraf.
"There were pro-Musharraf leaders in the party - for instance, Mr Amin Fahim - but there were also those who hated his guts - for instance, Senator Raza Rabbani," claims the editorial.
It also claims that the party's Sindh base was unhappy with its alliance with the MQM, because the MQM is seen as President Musharraf's proxy in the province.
There is also the traditional anti-Americanism of the party at the grassroots level. The fact that Musharraf is seen to represent American interests in the eyes of many has rankled too, as there is worry that the PPP vote bank could incline towards the PML-N which is seen as more nationalistic.
According to the editorial, the shift in Zardari's stance could also have been prompted by economic considerations, or the politics of how the economic problems of the country were being handled by the PPP-led government.
There is a view in certain quarters of the party that the PPP government has been passing down the real cost of the international hike in food and oil prices, and according to the Daily Times editorial, the government "needed an acceptance of its economic performance at the mass level on the basis of party loyalties."
"So it decided that if it could bring the PML-N back into the cabinet it could weather the public storm against rising prices and the universal complaint of a "dysfunctional" government. To get the PML-N back in the tent, it had to respect the ruling passion of Mr. Sharif: to get even with President Musharraf by ousting him from power," the editorial claims.
There have been other spin-offs as well, says the editorial. For instance, the PPP coalition in Balochistan has survived because of its unanimous rejection of President Musharraf.
Baloch nationalism is on the upswing and no one, not even the Pashtuns of Balochistan, can say anything to challenge its ingredients.
The JUI chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has essentially been a fence sitter whenever such anti-Musharraf campaigns take place, and has not allowed himself to be isolated in Balochistan.
"After Sindh, where the PPP wants to consolidate itself by indirectly opposing the MQM, it is Balochistan where the PPP sees itself emerging as a credible arbiter of extremist politics by dumping President Musharraf."
In the North West Frontier Province, the Awami National Party (ANP) has never been greatly fond of President Musharraf, seeing him as the manufacturer of the "mullah-military" alliance that ousted the party from the 2002 elections.
The ANP's traditional anti-Americanism has made it difficult for its leader, Asfandyar Wali, to play the politics of pragmatism, especially as his constituency in Karachi.
The ANP leadership also sees Musharraf and his agencies as stoking the fires of jihad in Afghanistan and thus empowering the Taliban which endangered its survival.
The ANP's dumping of Musharraf may also be aimed at bringing the Taliban Movement and its backers to a less hostile view of the PPP government, thus facilitating the PPP's "peace offensive" in the Tribal Areas, says the editorial.
The impeachment of Musharraf is appealing to the coalition "because it is to be done by a joint session of parliament while removing Article 58-2(b) doesn't because it has to be done by separate 2/3rd votes in each of the two houses," the editorial adds.
It says that Musharraf has the option of dismissing parliament and can get the current Supreme Court to validate it. The all important question is whether the all powerful army is with the impeachers or with President Musharraf?
"It was scared of Mr. Sharif but now, it may also be fearful of Mr. Zardari," the Daily Times opines.
The race for the "numbers" is on. The process will take time, the editorial concludes.