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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Analysis: Musharraf wins round one
Women vote in the referendum
Many Pakistanis see the president as a sincere man
test hello test
By Owais Tohid
BBC correspondent in Islamabad
line

As General Pervez Musharraf heads towards a landslide victory in the controversial referendum, his supporters would feel he is completing a transition from military dictator to political statesman.

However, allegations of rigging are likely to affect the impact of his victory on the minds of many people at home and abroad.

When he grabbed power in a coup in 1999, it was a sombre General Musharraf who appeared before the public, clad in his military uniform.


He would want to dictate his terms to the parliament after October polls

Political analyst Najam Sethi
But his referendum campaign posters showed him smiling, his army uniform traded for traditional Pakistan attire.

By juggling the two images, the powerful general is trying to combine his twin positions of political reformist and army chief.

With his officially massive victory in the referendum, the general will be able to continue with his reformist policies, backed by his many supporters in the country.

But he cannot afford to ignore the opposition.

Opposition

Although many small parties supported General Musharraf, the leaders of an alliance of political parties accused his government of rigging the vote.

President Musharraf
Civilian clothes, but a military gesture
The Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) said the turnout was low and called for the president's resignation.

For his part, President Musharraf has asked opposition politicians to retire from politics.

But the ARD consists of the country's two biggest parties, Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League.

President Musharraf cannot be dismissive of them, with elections scheduled for October.

"He will become very strong. He will get power through his army uniform and now being elected as president he would want to dictate his terms to the parliament after the October polls," says political analyst Najam Sethi.

Consolidating power

General Musharraf has constituted a National Security Council as the supreme decision making authority and adjudicator.


He is going to try to give the army a permanent role in national politics

Political analyst Mehdi Hassan
He has secured the presidency and has also held local elections, and personally administered oath to the elected officials under which they are barred from supporting the policies of the party that nominated them.

The constitution is suspended and he has announced that he will make changes to it if required.

Analysts question where an eventual elected government would fit in this scheme.

"It will never be a balanced system. There will be a tug of war between pro-Musharraf parties and parliamentarians," says Mr Sethi.

"He is going to try to give the army a permanent role in national politics," adds another political analyst, Mehdi Hassan.

Zia vs Musharraf

Pakistan's all powerful army has ruled the country for more than half of its 55 years of existence.

Polling station
The poll allows Musharraf to continue his reforms
In 1977, former military ruler General Zia-ul Haq removed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government, held a presidential referendum in 1984 and held onto power till his death in a plane crash in 1988.

But unlike General Zia, Pervez Musharraf is seen by many disillusioned Pakistanis as a sincere leader, who saved the country from perceived US wrath in the aftermath of September 11 by turning against the Taleban regime.

The international community has also openly embraced the military general, who was once a pariah.

"Unlike Zia, he did not need legitimacy, he has already got the legitimacy after September 11," says Mr Hassan.

A people's mandate will only make the Western world more comfortable with the general.

Battling extremism

One of the pivots of his support domestically and abroad has been his efforts in curbing religious extremism in Pakistan.

But he has already been challenged on this front by a backlash, with the recent attack on a church, sectarian killings and bomb blasts.

The religious parties oppose his pro-America stance, describing him as "an enemy of Islam".

The presence of US forces within Pakistan working to put down armed militant groups has angered them more.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The government is trying to down play expectations"
See also:

29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's ignored voters
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan prepares to vote
28 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf 'ready' for another term
22 Apr 02 | South Asia
Court examines Musharraf poll
05 Apr 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf's referendum gamble
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf goes for 'Zia option'
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf poll approved
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Q&A: Pakistan referendum
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