Of course, the Presidency has confirmed the Wednesday night meeting between President Musharraf and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, but insists that it was of routine nature. There was not much in terms of elaboration from the army side as well, perhaps in keeping with the tradition that militaries do not talk much.
But that nonchalance about a meeting, which was reportedly a one-on-one lasting more than three hours till midnight, followed the day-long consultations between the army chief and his commanders, and had come about amidst a welter of speculation that the President may call it day anytime, is beyond one’s comprehension.
Only a day before, the rumour that he was quitting had plunged the stock market below a psychological barrier of 12000. And the man in the street asks: has the day arrived when President Musharraf would pack up and go? The reported meeting of Wednesday night brings back to one’s memory the saga of resignations of Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif that the then army Chief General Abdul Waheed Kakar had secured as a neutral arbitrator between the two squabbling centres of power.
A few years later, Farooq Leghari had to leave facing the threat of his impeachment in the backdrop of a situation not very different from the one President Musharraf faces today. A sense of deja vu surrounds.
Ever since March 9 last year, when he filed a reference against the then Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the President at the eye of a storm. All of his moves ranging from the ill-advised and motivated reference against Justice Chaudhry, to his dubious election in uniform, to his November 3, 2007 mini-martial law, had received public opprobrium.
But that did not discourage President Musharraf who soon after his party PML (Q)’s defeat in the elections perceptibly set about conspiring to steal the PPP-led coalition’s electoral victory. That has added fuel to the fire already raging against him in the wake of the judicial crisis.
If he does not suffer from some kind of megalomania, his failure to see the reality of the situation can be certainly attributed to his total insulation from the public opinion, apparently thanks to the barriers raised by his cronies and the flawed intelligence available to him.
He conceded his November 3 action was unconstitutional but made it part of the constitution. He made a promise before the entire nation that he would doff his uniform by the end of 2004, but he did not, caring two hoots about the public opinion, rule of law and constitutionalism. Now the birds are coming home to roost as demands range from his resignation to his impeachment and trial.
Irrespective of the truth in the matter as well as the statements made by his office and the ISPR, the general public tends to view the Army Chief, General Kiyani, counselling President Musharraf against any action that may further add to the ubiquitous uncertainty which is already taking a heavy toll of the national economy and political stability.
It is generally believed that the general asked him to banish the thought of exercising his power under Article 58-2(b) to dissolve the National Assembly and dismiss the government. He has been probably told that he has failed to act as the President who is expected to be apolitical after his election and equally accessible to all manner of people and politicians.
General Kiyani’s advice should sink with President Musharraf because the latter’s options are now extremely limited. His nemesis, Sharif brothers, want his head; his former military seniors want his trial; and PPP leadership will not hesitate to impeach him. In these circumstances, it would not be entirely unrealistic to think that for President Musharraf the moment of truth has arrived.