Pakistan's Musharraf Faces Growing Pressure
As deadly violence continues to expose potential instability in Pakistan, the nation's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is coming under increasing political pressure.
The impact of a ruthless conflict between Islamist extremists and Pakistan's government can be seen at a hospital in Islamabad — the same hospital that just 21 months ago was full of victims of South Asia's worst earthquake in living memory.
The current disaster is manmade.
The hospital's occupants include people injured by fighting during the siege at Islamabad's Red Mosque, which ended in an attack by government forces.
Patients include victims of the militant backlash to the Red Mosque bloodbath.
And they include Mohammed Rashid, a shopkeeper who lies in a small, stuffy ward alongside a few other people who were peppered by shrapnel.
Rashid says he was crossing a road in Islamabad on Tuesday evening, near a crowded outdoor rally for Pakistan's suspended chief justice.
A bomb exploded, flattening Rashid and shattering his lower leg.
More than 100 Pakistanis have been killed — and many more injured — within less than a week in one militant attack after another.
Many of the victims have been soldiers and police in the northwest.
Rashid says Musharraf's government needs to think about all this.
On the other side of town, more advice is being handed out to Musharraf and his generals.
Top brass from Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party are addressing the media.
The PPP is thought to be Pakistan's most popular opposition party. Some of its workers were killed in Tuesday's blast. Now the PPP is turning up the heat on Musharraf.
Mian Raza Rabbani, a senior party leader, says the party wants a civilian government of national consensus to be set up, paving the way for elections.
"We do not envisage a political role for the armed forces of Pakistan, and as far as Gen. Musharraf is concerned, I think he has played his innings," Rabbani says.
Musharraf has been in serious political trouble since suspending Pakistan's chief justice in March. The surge of militant attacks is compounding the crisis.
Instability is growing, and so are predictions that Musharraf plans to impose a state of emergency.
There has been pressure on the general to make a deal with Bhutto that would allow free elections but would let Musharraf stay on as president — though not as chief of the army.
Bhutto has been talking to Musharraf's aides.
But her supporter Rabbani says those talks are not about allowing Musharraf to stay on.
"We have not been talking about a power-sharing equation," Rabbani says. "We have been talking about a transfer of power to the elected representatives held under free and fair, transparent elections."
But Musharraf's opponents have a problem. The general doesn't think his innings are over.
He told a group of Pakistani newspaper editors Wednesday that he wants another term as president, seeking reappointment before the elections from Pakistan's current national and provincial parliaments, where he has enough votes to win.
And he wants to remain army chief of staff. But, he said, he will not declare a state of emergency.
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