Page last updated at 11:51 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 12:51 UK

What next for President Musharraf?

The resignation of President Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan marks something of a watershed in the country's troubled recent history as Chris Morris reports.

Former President Pervez Musharraf
Mr Musharraf resigned after being threatened with impeachment

"Where's Musharraf's farm?" we asked a man on the road.

"First left, on the left," he said.

"You can't miss it."

We passed another man, sitting under a hedge, next to a cart loaded with apples.

And just around the corner, we came to a gate covered in muddy, plastic sheeting.

A bit of a come down from the pomp and circumstance of the presidency, but beggars can't be choosers.

If he stays in Pakistan, and if his political opponents don't try to throw him in jail, this is where the former President, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf will soon make his home.

Dangerous places

The surrounding fence was beginning to rust a little, but it had been topped off with gleaming coils of what looked like brand new razor wire.


And like the emperor who had no clothes, no-one in his immediate circle seemed willing to tell him that his time was up


Inside, piles of bricks lay next to a half-built drive and a cement mixer stood idle.

In the background a large house was well on the way to completion. But it certainly did not look like the owner had been expecting to move in any time soon.

The labourers were under strict instructions not to let us through the gates, but as we turned to leave, a few slightly better-dressed gentlemen appeared.

"You shouldn't come here again," one of them said gravely, "it's dangerous for you."

Now there are undoubtedly quite a few dangerous places in Pakistan, but the hedgerows of suburban Islamabad do not quite fit into that category.

Confronting death

If it is dangerous for anyone, it is probably dangerous for Pervez Musharraf. This is a man whom Islamist militants have tried to kill more than once.

Pakistan"s ruling coalition leaders: Asif Ali Zardari (left),  Nawaz Sharif (centre left), Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman (centre right) and Asfand Yarwali (right)
Pakistan's ruling coalition must now choose a new president

Given the chance, they will try again. Protecting him will be a security nightmare. But he has always seemed serenely confident that he can survive almost anything.

"I have confronted death and defied it several times in the past," he writes in his autobiography, "because destiny and fate have always smiled on me."

So will he really stay?

Well, according to reports from friends who went to see him after Monday's resignation, that is exactly his plan.

They paint a picture of a changed man with a weight off his shoulders, but still living for now in grand military accommodation.

"He's playing tennis and relaxing with his family," said one supporter.

"He was in a good mood, very relaxed. With no official duties, he was completely different."

Rumours

But then again, his friends and his official spokesman had been rubbishing reports of his impending resignation until about 10 minutes before he went on TV to speak to the nation.

So who knows?


Civilian politicians have often failed to live up to expectations in Pakistan


If all the rumours that had been doing the rounds had been correct, the soon-to-be former president would have resigned three times and left the country twice, well before his lengthy televised address.

There was a Saudi plane waiting at the airport... A British diplomat pulling the strings... He was going to fight on, he was going to flee... The military were with him. No they weren't... and so on and so forth.

Stopping a rumour, they say, is like trying to un-ring a bell. But the bells had been tolling loud and clear for Pervez Musharraf for quite some time.

And like the emperor who had no clothes, no-one in his immediate circle seemed willing to tell him that his time was up.

Right to the very end, it was clear that he still thought he was the best man for the job, perhaps the only man who could save Pakistan.

"I always put Pakistan first," he said, "always Pakistan first."

Unlike other elements, he suggested darkly, who think they are more important than the country and are trying to betray it.

Insurgency and inflation

The last image of Pervez Musharraf as president was of a man staring rather wistfully from an open car window, his hand raised in military salute.

An appropriate farewell for a leader who was never elected by the people, in a country which for all its current troubles, values the idea of democracy.

But civilian politicians have often failed to live up to expectations in Pakistan.

And at a time when insurgency and inflation are both rising fast, there is an enormous responsibility on their shoulders.

One striking thing about this week's transfer of power was that the Pakistani army was prepared to step aside and watch, as its former chief was backed into a corner and forced to resign.

That is a rare event in Pakistan. And now those who claim a democratic mandate will have to prove they are worthy of that trust.

Wherever he ends up former President Musharraf will probably be watching them closely, perhaps playing one of his favourite games of bridge, and wondering with the rest of us, who has got the ace up their sleeve.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 23rd August, 2008 at 1100 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.




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