Today a human bomber blew himself up
inside a crowded restaurant in
Pakistan's northwestern city of
Peshawar, killing at least 25 people
and wounding more than 20 others.
The explosion was the latest in a
series of violent attacks that have
rocked Pakistan over the past four
days. The country’s major cities are
paralyzed by political strikes and
rocked by violence that has claimed
the lives of more than 40 people in
the southern city of Karachi over the
weekend. An exchange of fire between
Afghan and Pakistani forces on the
disputed border was also reported on
Sunday, one day before an attack
killed a U.S. soldier and a Pakistani
on Pakistan’s side of the border.
Also Monday, Syed Hammad Raza, an
official of Pakistan's Supreme Court,
was shot dead in his home.
Although all incidents aren’t
related to each other, analysts say
they all undermine the strength of the
U.S.-allied Pakistani President Pervez
Musharraf, who is feeling the heat
from all directions amid accusations
that he is allowing tensions to
escalate while focusing on how to
extend his nearly eight-year rule,
according to an article on The Toronto
"Musharraf is losing
control," said retired Lt. Gen.
Talat Masood, a one-time Musharraf
adviser. "The government is only
interested in pushing its own agenda
and staying in power. They're not
interested in addressing Pakistan's
problems…So these fires have been
burning all along, but now they are
Musharraf, who seized office in a 1999
bloodless coup, is being threatened by
his suspension two months ago of
Pakistan's top judge, Iftikhar
Chaudhry; a move that sparked protests
from supporters as well opponents. The
president accused Chaudhry of using
his power to obtain a police job for
his son. But many in Pakistan
dismissed the charge and united behind
the judge, who became the most
celebrated figure in the country.
Musharraf's critics called the judge's
suspension an attempt to undermine the
independence of the judiciary, and
pave the way for the president to
remain in office as head of state and
chief of the army as a September
presidential election approaches.
"(It) boils down to one simple
fact," leading Pakistani
journalist and author Ahmed Rashid
wrote in The Washington Post. "He
(Chaudhry) was not considered
sufficiently reliable to deliver
pleasing legal judgments in a year
when Musharraf is seeking to extend
his presidency for five more years,
remain as army chief and hold what
would undoubtedly be rigged general
An increasing number of Pakistanis and
foreign observers are now asking the
same question: Is it time for
Musharraf to go?
"In the last few days a feeling
of tragedy is growing among
Pakistanis," says Hassan Abbas, a
research fellow of Harvard
University's Belfer Center, and former
Pakistani security official.
"People who believed in the rule
of law saw all their desires and
dreams crushed by the violence of the
last two days."
“There is not just dislike of
Musharraf, but hatred,” he added.
This sentiment was clearly illustrated
in a protest held yesterday by
lawmakers to denounce the Pakistani
President as "killer Musharraf."
Ordinary citizens blame Musharraf and
his political allies for Karachi’s
violence, which broke out after the
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), allies
of Musharraf, tried to block a
peaceful protest by thousands of
The local security services did
nothing to stop the violence,
"That's what tipped the
balance," says Toronto-based
analyst Kamran Bokhari, an expert in
the region. "Goons were allowed
to open fire, point blank, at
opposition workers. It's taken a major
psychological toll on the
The bloodshed, which Musharraf
denounced but failed to halt, has
ended his chances of re-election, said
Bokhari, a senior analyst for
U.S.-based Strategic Forecasting Inc.
"All over the country people were
able to watch the violence on
television and it horrified them. They
have had enough."
Above all his political survival is in
doubt because his biggest backer, the
military, is "ready to give him
"Pakistan's military is like a
corporation. If the board of directors
sees that the CEO is putting his
interests above everybody else's, they
get ready to negotiate a retirement
package," Bokhari said.
The recent developments also made many
of Musharraf's political allies back
off. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, head
of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League
Party, withdrew his support, and
former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's
popular Pakistan People's Party is
expected to follow. The country's
rival intelligence services are also
turning their backs on Musharraf.
The violence has also embarrassed the
United States, which supplies Pakistan
with money and financial support to
join in the "war on terror."
Musharraf’s ouster would remove the
regional linchpin for the West's fight
against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The
Pakistani President has been a key
ally of the U.S. President George W.
Bush since the United States invaded
neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001.
"Anger in the U.S. Congress and
media, particularly among members of
the Republican party, toward Musharraf…
is making it difficult for President
Bush to continue offering his blanket
support," says Rashid.