A match made in Washington
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In Pakistan, like other Muslim countries, there is a lot of activity during the couple of months before the beginning of Ramadan. People are usually in a hurry to tie the knot before the start of the month for fasting. This year is no different except that the country is bracing for a grand political marriage of convenience between the country's general-president and the largest national party, the Pakistan People's Party. Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto recently met in the UAE.
Initially, the government and Benazir Bhutto were shy in admitting they had a political date in the UAE. For Musharraf, meeting Bhutto is a major climbdown from his earlier position of not allowing the PPP and PML-N leadership to return to the country. A secret deal makes him look weak. In fact, news about the meeting possibly leaked by the PPP was meant as a blow to his reputation which the general countered by encouraging stories that Benazir was ready to accept him in uniform.
However, the general is clearly driven by the urgency to find credible political partners in a situation where he appears increasingly isolated. His current partner, the PML-Q, was ineffective in fighting the political crisis that had grown around the issue of the chief justice's dismissal in recent months. The general also finds himself hedged-in by the militants who are now eager to wage war against Islamabad. Furthermore, a political marriage with Bhutto is what Musharraf's political masters in Washington expect him to do in order to save the country from slipping further towards religious extremism. It is believed that the Bhutto-Musharraf duo, which represents liberalism, can bring sanity to society.
Bhutto, on the other hand, is eager to have a deal with the general to get back into power to save her own reputation, quash the corruption cases pending against her and to save her party from further political erosion. In fact, the steady defections from the ruling party to the PPP is one of the indicators that she is on the right track. However, striking a deal is purely her decision backed by some of her party crew who are eager to get into power and reap the harvest of being part of the government. Reportedly, some of the new people who have joined her are playing the role of communicating messages and gifts from those eager to get the party ticket for elections. However, there are others in her party who are unhappy with her decision. Reportedly about 47 members of the PPP informed Benazir Bhutto about their inability to secure votes if she made a deal with the general.
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