Musharraf to quit?

Pervez Musharraf has worked out a deal with the new civilian government of Yousef Gilani to retire to his Islamabad farm, rather than put Pakistan through an almost certain impeachment. His resignation would be accepted with a promise to end any efforts to prosecute him for crimes while in office, a perhaps less-than-satisfactory outcome for Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf deposed in 1999 and who wanted the former dictator prosecuted. In the end, the army insisted on Musharraf’s terms:

Pakistan’s beleaguered president Pervez Musharraf is to step down after nine years in office, government officials and a member of his circle have told the Financial Times.

A senior officer in Mr Musharraf’s camp on Thursday conceded that he had decided to step down to avoid a parliamentary impeachment that was likely to begin on Monday.

A senior Pakistani government official said that a deal had been brokered between president Musharraf and members of the newly elected coalition government, with the army playing a key role in the agreement.

“The president will neither be impeached nor prosecuted on any charges. He will try and stay in Pakistan,” said the official.

The army actually facilitated a deal by withdrawing its support of Musharraf in the last few days.  According to FT, the army had threatened to intervene if the civilian government pursued either impeachment or prosecution — not surprisingly, since the leadership had been all Musharraf’s men.  In an unusual development, though, the army finally blinked, backing away from Musharraf and leaving him vulnerable to his political opponents.  Immunity was the price the Gilani government had to pay to avoid yet another military coup.

According to the report, Musharraf will resign by Monday.  He will immediately decamp for his farm, leaving the Pakistani government in the hands of the coalition headed by Gilani.  Whether that means an immediate revote for the presidency remains to be seen.  If this all takes place as reported, it means the real transfer of power to civilian control in a decade — and it could also mean a new period of even greater instability.  Musharraf provided a focus for Pakistani discontent, and with him out of the picture, the Gilani government will have to start delivering better days, and soon.