Who's Really in Power in Pakistan?

The man who would be president. Zardari is Benazir Bhutto's widower and the head of the country's most popular political party, which she led and her father created. He was once called "Mister 10 percent," accused of skimming off the top of every deal he touched. Today he would be in charge of the country's third attempt to transition from military to civilian leadership.

If he becomes president, as many analysts predict, "it would be an executive presidency," as Rais put it. The prime minster, officially the head of the government, would not hold significant power. Zardari would need to insulate himself constitutionally from judges throwing out the National Reconciliation Order, which gave Zardari amnesty from corruption charges late last year.

Nawaz Sharif, Chairman, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz

The head of the country's second-largest party, he was the driving force behind the move to remove Musharraf from power. Sharif was on his second tour as prime minister when Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup.

His party has repeatedly threatened to leave the coalition government if the PPP does not agree to reinstate the 60 judges who Musharraf fired late last year. His support of Zardari depends on an agreement on the judges.

"He's already indicated to Zardari, 'We will support you," says Rais. "His only condition would be that the judiciary is restored."

If Sharif chooses to leave the coalition, the PPP could still lead a coalition without the PML-N.

General Ashfaq Kiyani, Chief of Staff, Pakistani Army

The military is still the most influential and powerful institution in the country, and Kiyani is by some measure the most influential and powerful man in the country. But unlike Musharraf, who installed him in this post last year, Kiyani is trying to stay out of politics and wants the politicians to take ownership of the government.

He has made 2008 "the year of the soldier," an attempt to improve Pakistanis' opinions of the military, opinions that have dropped as Musharraf blurred the line between army and government. And it is an attempt to refocus the military itself on an incredibly difficult problem: rooting out the Taliban, so long as that's what it is asked to do.

"The military realizes its own limitations," Masood says. "Because of the rise of militancy within Pakistan, and at the same time the strong alienation of the people of Pakistan against the military. This is why they're even prepared to tolerate a weak civilian dispensation, provided they feel eventually, it will start delivering."

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan

Last year was the most violent in Pakistan's history since its bloody partition from India in 1947. Fifty-six bombings killed more than 600 people, most notably, Benazir Bhutto. It was after the military's operation against radical, religious students in Islamabad when the Tehrik-e-Taliban -- the Movement of Pakistani Taliban -- launched a violent campaign under the leadership of a militant from Waziristan named Baitullah Mehsud.

A wave of attacks -- Pakistan's first repeated use of suicide bombings -- targeted police, the military and politicians. The attacks largely stopped when the current government signed peace deals with various factions, but in the last few months the Taliban has resumed its attacks on Frontier Corps soldiers, and as the military has responded, the suicide bombings have returned.

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