In true “filmy” style General Musharraf fled from the Islamabad High Court, after the judges had denied him bail and ordered his arrest.  The Court was hearing the cases relating to the detention of 60 judges after Musharraf had imposed an emergency in 2006. He did not act as a responsible law abiding citizen leave alone as a former President and retired Army Chief. He acted as an absconder or a person who considers himself above the law. The truth is that in Pakistan all Army Chief’s with the exception of General Jehangir Karamat have not only thought that the law is below them but that they are the law.

As I write these words, Musharraf is in his farmhouse in Islamabad. There are reports that he moved the Supreme Court which has rejected his appeal. Pakistan looks on to see the steps that the current Army leadership, the Judiciary and the caretaker government take in this matter. The Army already embarrassed with his return has little sympathy for him. It would have preferred if he had stayed on abroad. It simply cannot afford to have a former chief completely humiliated. That will be terrible for its image and morale.  It will seek to ensure that a compromise is reached behind the scenes which while seeming to uphold the rule of law allows Musharraf to retain some elements of his honour. The caretaker government has its hands full with the conduct of elections will go along with whatever arrangement the Army and the judges are able to reach in the instant matter. One way out will be to confine him to his farmhouse and not take him to a jail after his arrest. A plea that his security requires that he not be taken to a jail will be used. Even if he is taken from his house he will be lodged in comfortable house.  Will Musharraf seek to be a martyr and hand himself over to the police? Even if does so, it will carry little credibility for the question will be asked, why did he not do so in the High Court itself.

What happens to Musharraf is really of little consequence to the future of Pakistan. He has been a pathetic figure living in his own make believe world which is far removed from realty. Strangely more attention was paid to him in India then in Pakistan. Despite all his wishful thinking he has no political support within Pakistan. The rejection of his nomination papers in all the four constituencies from which he wished to contest elections has not aroused any interest in Pakistan which will go to the polls on May 11.This only proves his irrelevance to Pakiatan’s political and national life.

While Musharraf himself does not matter the Pakistan army, as an institution, is and will continue to be the final authority in Pakistan. Its control of the country’s security policies is total. It is the ultimate institution that controls Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missiles. It dominates those areas of foreign policy which impinge on the country’s security. This includes its policies towards India, Afghanistan and the US. Indeed the Army can take over the government if it deems doing so necessary. There will be a great deal of angry speech making, more outside Pakistan than inside,  and sanctions will be imposed. However,  at the end of the day the people of Pakistan and the world will have no choice but accept it. The Pakistan judiciary which has become aggressive under the present Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhari will also lose its teeth when the generals truly bare theirs. As of now, it does not suit the Army to directly control the government. Its hands are full fighting the Pakistani Taliban and on keeping its focus on Afghanistan.

A great deal has been written about the PPP government completing its full five year term. There is no doubt that this in itself has been a good development. It was made possible on account of President Asif Zardari’s political skills. As he has emerged from the shadow of Benazir Bhutto Zardari has displayed an amazing degree of political cunning. He has been able to manipulate other political parties and personalities in an adroit manner using “ saam, daam, dhand , bhed” in way no Pakistani politician has been able to so do in the past. There have been credible reports that his tentacles were able to reach some sections of the security institutions too. However, he was shrewd enough to know where to draw to the line.

Pakistani elections are being held in the shadow of Taliban violence. The Awami National Party in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been a special target of the Pakistani Taliban. In the three weeks to Election Day it is likely that there will be more acts of terrorism but they will not be able to prevent the elections from being held. It can also be expected that the elections will be reasonably free and fair. What will happen in the elections?

It is always difficult to predict election results. At this stage it seems likely that the elections to the National Assembly will be an interplay between the old established parties. These include the PML(N) of Nawaz Sharif, the PPP, the party of the Chaudhari brothers in the Punjab, and the ANP. The religious parties attract attention but do not have a track record of attracting voters. They are on good terms with Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan has launched a strong campaign. He is popular among a section of urban voters especially the youth. He is raising issues of governance. At one stage he had, it is believed, the support of the Army. However Imran Khan lacks the support of the biradari networks. Biradari is not as significant in Pakistani politics as caste is in Indian elections but its importance cannot be under rated. All in all it seems unlikely that Imran Khan will make a decisive impact in the coming elections.

As a postscript two points may be made: India’s focus must always remain on the Army which has not reduced its hostility and refuse to give up the weapon of terrorism. Civilian politicians have limited influence on Pakistani policies towards India. No lunches given to Pakistani leaders will make them to refrain from interfering in our internal affairs. Look at Zardari’s comment on the Afzal Guru case where he claimed that India had abused the judicial process.