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Nawaz exile and the political implications - Folder

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    Nawaz exile and the political implications - Folder

    All three of Pakistan's political leaders - Nawaz, BB and Altaf are now banished to exile. Where does this leave General Musharraf's political program? In the coming days and weeks there will be a lot of debate about the 'survival' of the present set-up. Lets bring together all these debates under one thread.


    --------------------------------------------- http://www.tribuneindia.com/20001211/edit.htm#2


    Musharraf's master-stroke

    Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, as it appears today, has emerged a master tactician. By striking a deal between his government and ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, resulting in presidential clemency for the latter, the self-appointed Chief Executive has weakened the political movement against his regime to the point of rendering it rudderless. Along with Mr Sharif 19 members of his family have reached Saudi Arabia as part of the secret deal, which also has it that the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) supremo will remain out of the political arena for as long as 21 years besides the forfeiture of his property worth $8.3 million to help the Musharraf government in its face-saving exercise. This means that there will be little political pressure on the military ruler now. Mr Sharif's wife Kulsoom, without holding any post in the PML, had not only launched a powerful campaign against military rule but had also joined hands with Ms Benazir Bhutto's PPP and 16 other parties to form a grand alliance named the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy. Of course, the father of the conglomerate of so many political forces was veteran politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, but Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz provided the maximum strength to it. By working relentlessly ever since her husband was overthrown as Prime Minister and put behind bars with a life sentence slapped on him, she had succeeded in creating abundant sympathy for the jailed leader. She had also emerged as a major threat to the government of General Musharraf, who must be feeling relieved after her departure from the Pakistani soil.

    By agreeing to live a life of exile Mr Nawaz Sharif may be happy that he has saved himselves from a life in jail. But he has proved to be a weak-hearted person (even if it is finally diagnosed that he has no serious heart problem), who could not bear his difficulties till the coming elections, not very far. He could have secured presidential clemency then too. But there was a big if. He has opted for a less risky course, though he will go down in history as an escapist of the first order. His partymen, who had been suffering all kinds of harassment because of the struggle against army rule at the instance of their jailed leader, must be cursing him for leaving them in the lurch. Reports suggest that there is great resentment among the PML rank and file as Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz consulted nobody in her party before quietly agreeing to fall into the trap laid by General Musharraf. The leaders of the grand alliance forged only the other day too must be feeling let down by the Sharif family at this critical juncture when they seemed to be succeeding in their struggle for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

    If all that has happened is a great loss for the pro-democracy movement, it is going to make life easier for the ruling General. He will have all the time with him to give a practical shape to his strange political ideas. He may think of installing an elected regime which may be easily remote-controlled by him when he decides to relinquish power. He has already strengthened his position in the armed forces by making certain key Generals change their places of posting. He has eliminated any threat to his rule, if at all it was there, from the army side. In the absence of political pressure too, General Musharraf may try to concentrate on the implementation of the promises he has been making, which may help him regain the sympathy of the public he had lost during his 14-month rule. To assuage the feelings of the people who might have wished Mr Sharif to suffer in jail and receive the wages of his sins, the General may be more vigorous on his anti-corruption drive and redouble his efforts to restore the health of the economy. All this is, however, a matter of guess. What he has proved is that politicians can never be a match to military men in a war of supremacy, at least in Pakistan.

    ---------------------------------------------

    #2
    ---------------------------------------------
    http://www.nation.com.pk/top2.htm

    The politics of exile

    By M.A. Niazi

    LAHORE-Though the military government has no guarantee that Nawaz Sharif will stick to his part of the bargain, still undisclosed, which resulted in his presidential pardon and exile to Saudi Arabia, the dynamic of leadership in exile makes it equally certain that he has lost the political initiative, and his fate will now be determined by factors on which he will have very little or no control.

    The first option for Nawaz is to accept ouster from politics, as has been done by scores of exiled leaders in history, to spend the rest of his life in reliving his glory days. That would suit the present government the most, but the balance of the evidence is against that. He personally has a strong power drive, and there is a family precedent eerily similar to its present predicament: after their industries were nationalised in the Bhutto era, the Sharifs went to the Middle East to try and make a comeback. They were not successful, but managed to return to Pakistan after Bhutto went.

    If Nawaz does decide to try at some stage to make a comeback, there will be three factors affecting his chances of success, but which he will not be able to influence much. It should be noted that while a politician's, or for that matter anyone's, chances of success depend on his environment, his abilities and his resources give him an opportunity to shape events. In exile, that ability is sharply curtailed.

    Two major and inter-linked factors will play a role. The first is time. The longer he stays away, the less he will be able to influence events. This is despite modern means of communication, though those are helpful. In Nawaz's case, his problem is that his control over his political force, the PML, is not rooted firmly in discipline or loyalty (no matter how much ordinary voters support him), while it depends greatly on his personal interaction. The second is whether any alternative leadership emerges during his absence to take his place. Again, the longer he stays away, the likelier this is to happen, for in political science, as much as in physics, Nature abhors a vacuum.

    The first factor that will determine whether Nawaz can come back or not is time. The longer he stays away, the more his memory will fade. It is impossible to predict how long he is kept away, but a guesstimate would be six months to a year after the Musharraf government goes. To keep him away for more than 34 months (22 months remaining to the government, plus 12 months) would require a prolongation of the regime. It is not impossible for this alone to force Musharraf to remain in power: it was certainly an important factor in Zia prolonging his own regime long beyond its shelf-life.

    Benazir's example is instructive as to how a party leader operates from exile. With a much greater personal following, so great that her absence has been marked by a corresponding absence of party rebellions or takeover attempts, she has not been able to give direction to a party fractured by internal jealousies, even though she is in constant touch with visitors, and by phone, fax and e-mail. Her personal intervention was needed to obtain coordination from her followers, and in the absence, or at least massive reduction, of that personal touch, the PPP is hardly a functional party any longer.

    In Nawaz's context, that lack is much more glaring. His hold over the party is linked to his hold over the electorate, and his followers owe him little personal loyalty, allowing him to lead so long as he can deliver votes in elections. So-called Nawaz loyalists have remained so because they see no counterbalancing offer from the other side, whether it be the likeminded group, the Chaudhris or the military government.
    It is difficult to see how Nawaz can run the party indirectly for long. His commitment to maintain silence will depend on how much latitude his Saudi hosts allow him, and when. Of course, if he goes to another country, then he is free to act as he wills, but that again depends on whether the Saudis let him go. Despite this silence, it will be almost impossible to prevent him from communicating his wishes to his loyalists in Pakistan.

    The second factor, the emergence of an alternative, is most important. To take just one example, Argentina's Juan Peron returned after 20 years of exile to be elected President, mainly because Argentine politicians had failed to emerge from under his shadow. Closer home, even after Bhutto's hanging, his votebank remained intact, because while Zia managed to build a kind of support base (which Nawaz ironically inherited), no one was able to create a parallel to the PPP. Among those who tried were Hanif Ramay and Mustafa Jatoi, but neither could break the Bhutto mystique, even though Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir spent several years in self-imposed exile. Interestingly, it was Benazir who returned first, and it was she who inherited the mantle of her father, sidelining her mother as well as her brothers, who were entangled by their Al-Zulfikar involvement.
    Nawaz's vote bank is basically anti-PPP, but he has a following of his own. If no one emerges to take over the anti-PPP mantle, then he will remain a live factor. With Benazir also outside the country, cobbling together an anti-PPP coalition will not be easy, especially if it is perceived as the government's B-team. Being the B-team is not necessarily bad, if the government's economic performance has created a feel-good factor, but at present, it seems that it will be years before the present feel-bad factor is reversed. Being a substitute for the Musharraf government might well be a handicap.

    Also, the situation is now complicated. The military government has not reached out to any significant political force. The Zia era saw the coalescing of an anti-PP force, though it can also be argued that the Martial Law retarded this process. What is supposed to coalesce now? The only political space created by Nawaz's exit from the political scene is a takeover of the PML, but will a credible leader, who will bring the PML's hardheaded legislative candidates a vote add-on, emerge? If none does, then Nawaz will not only return, but return as a candidate for the Prime Ministership.
    Yet, there is another imponderable, which is also to an extent out of Nawaz's control: his health. Though there is heart disease in the family, his father shows that it is controllable. However, it is not known how dangerous or damaging was Nawaz's cardiac episode. The details made public indicate that it was angina, which need not involve damage to the heart, but which requires treatment, up to and including bypass surgery. Reports from Attock Fort indicated that Nawaz was getting adequate exercise, though he was indulging himself somewhat in his diet. He turns 52 in a fortnight, and his health is now a question mark, though not a very big one.

    In the vent that Nawaz does not survive exile, or is too debilitated by illness to assume the crushing routine that Pakistani politics requires at the highest level, then it is possible that the mantle will pass to either his wife or his brother, depending on which one reaches Pakistan first. "

    ---------------------------------------------

    [This message has been edited by Malik73 (edited December 11, 2000).]

    Comment


      #3
      Hmmm Are Altaf and BB on exile?

      Comment


        #4

        Good riddance to bad rubbish ?

        I think Malik is right, now Peoples Party, PML and others, have to have democracy in their rank and file.

        Comment


          #5
          Well BB and Altaf are in what is called "self-imposed" exile. Which mean they dare not step on Pakistani soil for fear of being arrested.

          With NS in Saudi and BB in the UAE, maybe Altaf should choose another Gulf state, and then they can all truly behave like Gulf Sheikhs.

          [This message has been edited by Malik73 (edited December 11, 2000).]

          Comment


            #6
            Exile maut se bahout behtar!!!!!

            Ab thom loog dekho, Benazir kya karegi!! Agar is se maut ajay, tho yeh sab sehi achaa!!!!!

            Comment


              #7
              now pakistan has real political vacum.
              there is no prominant political personality
              acceptable for allsections of pakistani
              people. for short term there is nobody to replace musharuff.but it poses long term problem.people will finally get tired of
              military rule. when civlilan goverment
              is corrupt and incompetant miltary can intervene who will intervene when military goverment fails that where danger lies.
              what happens when there is differing opinion among generals in dealing with india .only democracy can succesfully resolve such a crucial
              issues

              [This message has been edited by rvikz (edited December 11, 2000).]

              Comment


                #8
                rivk this is a God send for Pakistan's political future. Once the shock of Nawaz's exile has died down the people will start to embrace new personalities who will become our new leaders.

                We now have a political wilderness where Musharraf has emerged as the most powerful and undisputed leader in Pakistan's history. We can bulid a new political culture from scratch and leave the old corrupt and debilitating culture behind.

                If inshallah the local lections go ahead on schedule in a few weeks and the whole process is complete by August 2001. Then Pakistani's will be able to choose new leaders from the slate of local leaders and existing national personalities like Imran Khan.

                General Musharraf should seriously think about retiring Tarrar and declaring himself President of Pakistan.

                Comment


                  #9

                  ---------------------------------------------
                  http://www.nation.com.pk/


                  Exile may lead to democracy


                  From Afzal Khan


                  WASHINGTON-The dramatic release Nawaz Sharif will have profound and far reaching impacts on national political landscape, according to Pakistani community leaders, South Asian experts and administration officials.

                  The news took everybody by surprise but most agreed that it fits into an evolving exit strategy of the present military regime. A common perception was that Gen. Musharraf was likely to follow it up with further bolder initiatives, possibly leading to general elections next year , much ahead of the three-year period allowed by the Supreme Court. The story received wide coverage by newspapers and TV networks.

                  There was also a consensus that apart from making a smart move to upstage political opponents of the regime, Gen. Musharraf has set a welcome tradition reversing the one set by Gen. Ziaul Haq by hanging an elected prime minister of the country - an event that has cast long dark shadow on national life over past two decades.

                  Administration officials were not immediately available for immediate comment, because of weekly holidays. But Clinton administration has long been expressing concern over Nawaz Sharif's fate, particularly his health and pressing for leniency. It figured prominently during talks between President Clinton and Gen. Musharraf in Islamabad last March.
                  Denis Kux, former senior diplomat and South Asia-watcher, top leaders of community organisations including Dr. Nisar Chaudhry. Pakistan-American League, Dr Riaz Ahmed, president Pakistan American Congress, Shaukat Sindhu, Pakistan American Association of North America, Dr Arif Muslim ( PAK-PAC) gave mixed reaction but hoped it would expedite the process of restoration of democracy in the country.

                  "It set the pace for a process of political change." A senior Pakistan journalist told CNN adding:" the process is likely to build it own momentum leading the nation away from military rule to a civilian democracy. "

                  Several commentators raised the question of credibility of the accountability process and military rulers resolve to ensure return of money allegedly looted by politicians and siphoned off to foreign banks.

                  Analysts said apart from Saudi government's
                  persuasion complemented by US prompting, the decision reflected series of international, domestic political and economic developments. Continuing slide in economic situation, disenchantment over the performance of the regime, gathering storm of political opposition symbolised by formation of all parties Alliance for Restoration of Democracy ( ARD) and protest strike by lawyers, international isolation, have all combined to such the regime out of its complacency and political inertia.
                  In the larger context many analysts linked the move to evolving situation on Kashmir in the wake of Indian initiative for ceasefire. It is believes that the regime should now be more inclined to build a national consensus by giving up divisive politics and vindictive measures.

                  ARD suffers setback before it takes off

                  Nawaz Sharif's alignment with Benazir Bhutto has proved as shortlived as it looked odd and unprincipled to their critics. He has, however, reaped immediate dividend out of it prompting his military tormentors to act fast. On the other hand, recent deliberate leaks of a possible deal between the army and Benazir Bhutto was perhaps intended to nudge Nawaz government's terms for his release.

                  The exile of the entire Sharif family has strengthens the dissidents in Muslim League whose links with the regime are now an open secret.

                  Deni Kux who has written books on Pakistan and India, though it could also be interpreted as army's desire " to have Pakistan Muslim League more open to suggestions and align itself with the establishment and fit in with whatever the regime's plans might be for its own departure".

                  Nawaz' departure gives a free field to the regime to play its own political game with leaders of all three major parties, PPP, PML (N) and MQM, sitting outside. However, if Benazir does not fall in line, she can strengthen her mass support by standing against the regime.

                  Some critics said the clemency shown to a top leader of Punjab leaves little option for the regime but to demonstrate similar gesture to Benazir and other leaders of smaller provinces. Otherwise the government risks reinforcing the common belief that their leaders are treated much more harshly and even hanged.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I personally dont give credence to 'the nation' or any indian paper, at least in this issue, but its good reading.

                    I personally have come to the conclusion that there is a very limited advantage that we will gain by Nawaz's departure.
                    1. that he is out of the picture, out of politics, and and hence, out of our life.
                    2. that even if he tries to make a comeback, his very own reputation with his party has been tarnished to the extent that he wont be able to return as the head anymore. very unlikely.
                    3. even though its limited, but still, the additional money and property that the govt. will get will be a shot in the arm for a sagging economy, which, at least, is on the right track.

                    But even with all these advantages that I have been presenting myself with, I still believe that on the whole, its a loss. Whenever justice gets a jolt and is sidestepped in favor of 'favortism', its a sad day. Judiciary is one thing where there should be no compromises, ever, regardless.

                    I have seen it happen in muslim countries all over the world unfortunately. When a muslim is arrested and convicted in any western country, he is made to languish in jail and live out his sentence, no matter what...(the blind cleric Sheik Abdul Rahman, in a US jail for masterminding the Trade center bombing despite failing health and lack of solid proof against him). And when the opposite happens, we are quick to grant clemency to westerners, or those locals, whos release will appease the westerners. And in this case, I will classify the Saudis as westerners, since they acted just like them.

                    A few years ago, an australian woman was convicted of murder in Saudi arabia, but was let go. Why? external pressure. Whatever happened to the law of the land?

                    If a country does not have the ability to apply its own laws in its own land, that usually signals their downfall. Sovereignty is the most important thing we can cherish. If we cant have that, then, sadly enough, we can call ourselves a colony of any country out there that wishes to make us into one.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      EA I think we have to ask ourselves if Nawaz's flight in the dark improves POLITICAL development in Pakistan. And frankly yes it does, immeasureably. We now have a God given chance to wipe the slate clean and bulid a new political class devoid of sickening personalities like Nawaz, BB and Altaf. And in the end the people will be grateful for this as only a new political class can bring true democracy and development in Pakistan.

                      Yes, the judicial aspect is hard to swallow. And believe me the sight of this coward strutting down red carpets in Saudi Arabia and being hosted by the royals sickens me. It goes against all my principles and moral beliefs but sometimes you have to accept these decisions for the overall good of the nation.

                      But the most comforting fact is that this family's 20 year long ambition to achieve an absolute economic and political monopoly on Pakistan lies in tatters. They are disgraced, thoroughly disgraced and forever disgraced. Any dreams that they have of returning to Pakistan one day are only dreams.

                      [This message has been edited by Malik73 (edited December 11, 2000).]

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Malik. Im trying hard to think as optimistically as possible. And i cant say I disagree with anything you said. But a couple of fears stick in my mind regarding the whole saga.

                        The most important part, that has resulted from the Saudis over-riding our judiciary, is that they were unable to set a precedence for corrupt politicians. With lack of a precedence, it leaves the doors open for any one else to do the same in the future, and always have a way of getting away with it.

                        And another thing, as reprehensible as it may be, but still is a fact, is that the Sharif clan might not be out of the picture for good. What guarantee do we have that a third party will take over in the next elections? And even if it takes 10 yrs for a Nawaz Sharif successor to come in and present himself as the son of 'Pakistan ka Sher, Nawaz Sharif", you know how our public will fall for that. The same happened with Benazir, when she became a force based solely on peoples sympathy for her father. Thats the way it works in Pakistan, and it will take more than a diplomatic solution to solve this and change the mindset of people.

                        In the absence of a precedence, there is no example set....and it leaves the doors open for future potential offenders. The only precedence that has been set in this case is that hey, you loot the country, and get rewarded for it.

                        I really hope PPP and PML are wiped off the face of Pak politics, but realistically speaking, they are not done....and they still stand to be the two most influential parties in Pakistan, and the voting populace of Pakistan still will basically go more for these 2 parties than anything else. Sad as it may be, I think it will take some revolutionary measures to clean the slate....not a humanitarian decision.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          EA I will give you a detailed answer later. But here's something to mull over:-

                          Clemency for Zardari possible if he repents, surrenders assets: Moin

                          Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider Monday said the release of Benazir Bhutto's jailed husband could be considered if he repents and surrenders his assets involved in the court cases against him.

                          Talking to newsmen here he said that by releasing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a precedent has been set and Zardari's case could be considered on the same principle.

                          However, he added he was not aware of any deal being made for release of Asif Zardari. He said he was also not aware of likelihood of any meeting between Benazir Bhutto and Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf during his visit to UAE

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Major political parties and newspapers in Pakistan have reacted angrily to news that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has gone into exile in Saudi Arabia after being freed from prison.


                            The entire world would make fun of this country and its judicial process.


                            Taxi driver Hanif Khan
                            The move was described by one leading newspaper as a "farce".


                            Mr Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, accompanied by his father, Mian Mohammad Sharif, his jailed brother, Shahbaz Sharif, wife Kulsoom Nawaz and 15 other close relatives.

                            After his overthrow in a coup last year, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on hijacking and terrorism charges.

                            But his prison terms have now been commuted by the military government.

                            Lack of accountability

                            The daily News denounced the move in a strongly-worded editorial on Monday.

                            Sharif got the red carpet treatment when he arrived in Jeddah

                            "The total blanket of secrecy over the matter makes it another one of those underhand deals which in the past have given Pakistan its worst moments of shame and whose consequences are never thought out," it said.

                            Dawn newspaper said the military government was supposed to be committed to accountability.

                            "But the Sharifs have been allowed to go when many cases against them have yet to be settled."

                            There was reported to be a mixed reaction from political leaders.

                            But the move was denounced by the Pakistan People's Party of Benazir Bhutto and the main Islamist party, the Jamaat-e Islami.

                            Popular reaction was also reported to be hostile.

                            "You let Nawaz Sharif go, who is a big fish, with truckloads of luggage, and then you keep his aides and other businessmen in jail?" one man was quoted as saying by Associated Press.

                            However, the US Government has welcomed the development, and praised Saudi Arabia for working out an arrangement with the Pakistani authorities.

                            Assets seized

                            The government says it has confiscated bank deposits worth 300m Rupees ($5m), as well as five industrial properties, five residential plots and 24 hectares (60 acres) of agriculture land.

                            Kulsoom Nawaz: "No-one can turn us out"

                            But despite the seizure of some their property, the Sharifs were allowed to take 22 containers packed with household goods, including carpets and furniture.

                            Mr Sharif's family say he has had to go abroad for urgent medical treatment for a cardiac disorder.

                            His son Hasan, said: "Heart disease is common in my family. When my father was in jail he had a lot of anxiety. Problems were bound to happen," said his son Hasan.

                            'We will return'


                            Mrs Nawaz held out the hope of returning to Pakistan in the future.

                            "It is our country. Nobody can turn us out. If we go out for medical treatment we will return," she said. Chronology
                            12 October 1999
                            Nawaz Sharif ousted in coup


                            18 November
                            Sharif formally arrested


                            19 January 2000
                            Sharif and six co-accused charged


                            26 January
                            Trial begins in special court


                            6 April
                            Sharif found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment


                            12 April
                            Sharif files appeal with High Court


                            Mr Sharif remains head of the former ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League, although he appointed close aide Javed Hashmi as acting president in his absence.

                            A 21-year ban on holding public office, imposed on Mr Sharif at his trial, remains in force.

                            A Saudi diplomatic source said that Mr Sharif would not be allowed to take part in political activity while he was living there.

                            Saudi officials said Mr Sharif would perform umra, a minor Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, before being admitted to hospital for treatment.

                            The BBC Islamabad correspondent says that Mr Sharif's exile removes a major opposition figure from the country prior to elections due before the end of 2002.
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                            See also:


                            11 Dec 00 | South Asia
                            Press ponders Sharif's exile
                            10 Dec 00 | South Asia
                            Nawaz Sharif begins exile
                            15 Aug 00 | South Asia
                            Sharif appeals conviction
                            06 Apr 00 | South Asia
                            Life sentence for Sharif
                            11 Oct 00 | South Asia
                            Profile: Nawaz Sharif
                            12 Oct 00 | South Asia
                            Pakistan after the coup: Special report
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                              #15

                              ---------------------------------------------
                              http://news.ft.com/ft/gx.cgi/ftc?pag...5LGC&live=true



                              Pakistan is left in need of new leaders


                              by Farhan Bokhari



                              The abrupt departure of Nawaz Sharif, the jailed former prime minister, from Pakistan on Sunday means that the two democratically elected prime ministers who took turns running the country during its 11 years of democracy from 1988 to 1999 have both been forced into exile.

                              Members of Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML) were largely dismayed over his decision to seek clemency from the very general, the military ruler Pervez Musharraf, whom Mr Sharif earlier defied, promising never to bow before a non-democratic leader.

                              In accepting life in exile for at least 21 years, Mr Sharif appears to have resigned himself to a de facto retirement from politics.

                              Benazir Bhutto, head of the Pakistan People's party (PPP), is now in her second year in self-imposed exile, dividing her time between Dubai and the west. She has been convicted in absentia by a Pakistani anti-corruption court and sentenced to five years in prison and seven years' disqualification from politics.

                              The absence of the two discredited mainstream leaders opens two possibilities. First, that the generals could acknowledge international pressure to restore civilian rule and resuscitate the moribund economy by moving more quickly towards democracy now that the two most corruption-tainted figures are out of the way.

                              Second, that the emergence of new political leaders to replace Mr Sharif and Ms Bhutto could result in Pakistan embarking on fundamental foreign policy changes, especially in seeking a truce with neighbouring India in a 53-year conflict over the Kashmir region.

                              Yesterday, many of Pakistan's political analysts criticised Gen Musharraf for allowing Mr Sharif to go into exile after overseeing his life imprisonment earlier this year for denying landing permission to the aircraft on which Gen Musharraf was a passenger. The general also accused Mr Sharif and other politicians of corruption.

                              Hamid Nasir Chattha, a former speaker of the parliament, said following the decision to free Mr Sharif: "This government now has no moral authority to prosecute anyone else on corruption charges. The whole [anti-corruption] process has lost credibility."

                              Abida Hussain, a former ambassador to the US and a member of the PML who turned against Mr Sharif, said: "Gen Musharraf will have difficulty in explaining his decision to the people of Pakistan. How can you convict somebody like this and then let them go?"

                              But others such as Ghazi Salahuddin, a political columnist, predicted that Mr Sharif's departure would be followed by the beginning of a new era. "The political system has been disturbed," he said. The way is now open for other politicians to fill the vacuum left by the absence of Mr Sharif and Ms Bhutto. However, both main political parties are rudderless, and all other parties are too small to carry the mantle of democratic change.

                              Some analysts said that if Pakistan's military ruler transferred power to civilians earlier than his promised deadline of the end of 2002, he could help to push what appears to be the first sign of a new round of peace negotiations with India.

                              India recently announced a ceasefire in an armed campaign against Muslim separatists, whom New Delhi says are armed and trained by Pakistan, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan announced a unilateral ceasefire in response along the Line of Control, the de facto border between the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir, where troops from both sides routinely exchange fire.

                              However, diplomats say a further push in a peace process may require a civilian leader in Pakistan. Indian leaders appear unwilling to negotiate with Gen Musharraf, whom they consider the architect of last year's Pakistan-backed incursion at Kargil, repulsed only after bloody fighting and US-brokered negotiations.

                              Until Pakistan throws up a politician with the stature of its former prime ministers, but without the taint of scandal, India and the rest of the world may have to bide their time.


                              ---------------------------------------------

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