| Backgrounder: Pakistan’s Political Future

Since taking control in a bloodless 1999 coup, General Pervez Musharraf has held on to power for nearly eight years, making him one of the most longstanding leaders in Pakistan’s sixty-year history. He won a flawed 2002 presidential election, according to EU monitors, and also maintained control of the country’s military by remaining army chief. As his five-year term nears its October 2007 end, Musharraf says he needs to remain in office to follow through on initiatives begun during his presidency. However, as a series of domestic crises threatens his authority, opposition leaders question whether Musharraf should remain army chief if he gains reelection. Meanwhile, former Pakistani leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both in exile, clamor for political support from their consituents at home. As the election nears, questions arise over Pakistan’s political future—with or without Musharraf. Futhermore, the U.S.-Pakistani alliance appears to be weakening as the Musharraf government continues to fail in its efforts to curb Taliban and al-Qaeda activities in the country’s northwest tribal areas.

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Co-authored by Carin Zissis and Greg Bruno