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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — If you had done the best you could ruling a predominately Muslim country and had been friendly to a country that was an enemy of many of your leading people, what would you do?

That decision was made this week by the Pakistani leader, President Pervez Musherraf who decided to resign rather than face impeachment proceedings.

I believe, given the circumstances he made the right decision. Pakistan isn’t the United States, where presidents have been impeached and still survived. The best recent example was President Bill Clinton who sayed on and served out his second four-year term of office.

But in Arab countries, sometimes those you thought were your closest
supporters turn against you. Musherraf wanted to fight impeachment. He is a brave man, and in my view he was an effective leader. But being effective and pleasing all of the people all of the time, as you know, is not possible. The thing one must remember is that politics is so diverse and multi-faceted in Pakistan. You don’t have a two-party system of, say, Democrats and Republicans.

In 2008, 49 political parties applied for poll symbols with the Election Commission. Outlined below are the main contenders:

PPP
The assassination of leader Benazir Bhutto looms large over the PPP, which had been banking on the charismatic leader to rally supporters to its cause and shake off the charges of corruption that have dogged the party since Bhutto fled prosecution after two terms as prime minister.

The fortunes of the party, launched in 1967 by her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, remains in the hands of her family, with son Bilwal installed as chairman.

Founded on promises of “egalitarian democracy,” the PPP flirted with socialist principles in its early days, gaining a mass popularity that continues to ensure it is among Pakistan’s largest political parties.

The PPP is popular among Pakistan’s oppressed and underprivileged, particularly in the southern province of Sindh, from where the Bhutto family hails.

PML-N
The PML-N is the largest faction of the Pakistan Muslim League and is led by Nawaz Sharif, who has re-emerged as a political player in Pakistan in the past few months after returning from Saudi Arabia where he was exiled after being ousted from power in a 1999 coup led by Pervez Musharraf.

The centrist conservative party was in power twice in the 90s, with both terms ending amid damaging allegations of corruption, despite campaigning on an anti-graft platform. Sharif’s 1997 victory was the largest mandate every recorded in Pakistan, but was immediately called into question by his opponent Bhutto. The term ended in chaos as . PML-N’s fortunes hang on a platform of renewing the country’s top judiciary — removed by Musharraf during a state of emergency.

PML-Q
Formed under guidance from Musharraf in 2001, the PML-Q was originally a splinter faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, which was able to attract enough dissidents from the PML-N to cobble together an alliance and form a government in 2002.

The largely center-conservative party has seen its power base dented through its association with Musharraf as polls show the president’s falling popularity in the face of the resurgent PPP and PML-N.

MMA
This party came into being after Musharraf allied himself to the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack on New York and Washington. The MMA is a coalition of six Islamic parties that emerged as a powerful challenger to the president. Opponents have decried the MMA, or Muttahida Majlis Amal’s goal of establishing a theocracy in Pakistan, and its attempts to impose hardline sharia law in the impoverished areas where it exerts greatest control. Thus, it is resolutely anti-American.

MQM
The MQM stands for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. It is a party formed to protect the rights of the Urdu-speaking immigrants from India after Partition. Led by Altaf Hussain from his self-imposed exile in the UK, the party has been supportive of Musharraf’s policies and formed part of the PML-Q alliance. It is a party that frequently faces allegations of terrorism activities.

ANP
The Awami National Party is a nationalist leftist party based in the North West Frontier province that and enjoys widespread popularity with ethnic Pakhtuns. The ANP did not enjoy much success in 2002 but has renewed hopes as the MMA’s following fades in the Frontier.

PTI
Pakistan Tehrik I Insaf is headed by the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Vitriolic in his criticism of Musharraf’s policies, Khan has failed to capitalize on his popularity as a sportsman, seeing his party take just one seat in the 2002 elections. PTI has said it will boycott the 2008 elections.

In a country of constant turmoil, terrorist groups in embryo, frequent intrigue and murders of opponent party members, it would be difficult to predict what will become of Musharraf–or where he will go.

In June, supporters of Nawaz Sharif, a former Pakistani prime minister, stepped on a poster of President Musharraf. Since he has agreed to resign there is little chance of impeaching him.

His departure from office seems likely to unleash new instability in the country as the two main parties in the civilian government jockey for his share of power. It would also remove from the political stage the man who has served as the Bush administration’s main ally here for the last eight years. Who replaces him is of great interest here in American for the former president aided in rounding up terrorist cells, lessening the number that would commit bombings in Iraq.

The details of how Mr. Musharraf would exit, and whether he would be able to stay in Pakistan or would seek residency abroad, are now under discussion between representatives of Mr. Musharraf and the governing coalition, the politicians said.

Mr. Musharraf would probably leave in the “next 72 hours,” Sheik Mansoor Ahmed, a senior official of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the major party in the coalition, said Thursday.

What remained to be worked out were guarantees for Mr. Musharraf’s physical safety if he stayed in Pakistan, or where he would go into exile. Among the places that Mr. Musharraf is said to favor if he goes abroad are Dubai, Turkey, the United Kingdom or the United States, though his strong preference is to stay in Pakistan, Pakistani politicians familiar with the negotiations said.

Mr. Musharraf also wants immunity from prosecution for any impeachable deeds, which the governing coalition appears willing to grant if he steps down, they said. His impeachment had been sought on charges that included illegally suspending the Constitution and imposing emergency rule last November. He also dismissed nearly 60 judges under one decree, and that helped feed the opposition to him.

The question of who would succeed Mr. Musharraf is a subject of almost as much maneuvering within the coalition as the plan to get rid of him.

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