Pervez Musharraf’s Long Goodbye

ISLAMABAD – Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan stands virtually alone today while facing the most serious challenge to his presidency: possible impeachment by the new democratically-elected government.

The potential charges are serious: conspiring to destabilize the government that was elected last February, unlawfully removing the country’s top judges in November 2007, and failing to provide adequate security to Benazir Bhutto before her assassination last December. Allying himself with the Bush administration has increased his unpopularity, especially following missile attacks by the United States in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Despite earlier differences on how to deal with Musharraf, Pakistan’s leading political parties are now united against him. Feuding between the Pakistan People’s Party, led by Benazir’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, and the Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had given Musharraf a chance to regain some standing after his allies were defeated in the February elections. American reluctance to abandon Musharraf – together with prolonged electricity shortages, which made the new government appear incompetent – also raised his hopes.

Musharraf may be counting on the army, his primary constituency, to bail him out of this crisis. Though such support remains a possibility, it is unlikely that the army leadership will extend itself on his behalf.