The Plank

Schmidle: Witnessing Musharraf's End

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As Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his departure from office today, TNR correspondent Nicholas Schmidle was on the ground to report: 

This afternoon, not long after Pervez Musharraf
announced that he'd had his fill after almost nine years of ruling
Pakistan, I wandered across Islamabad, to the headquarters of the
Pakistan People's Party. The headquarters, which include a residence
and a secretariat, are referred to collectively as the Zardari House,
named after Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widow. The Zardari House
has been the nerve center for the push to oust Musharraf over the past
year. The last time
I was there, on November 9, 2007, police had trapped Bhutto inside her
home to prevent the PPP leader from reaching a rally in the neighboring
city of Rawalpindi. Bhutto's supporters had gathered outside, chanting
against Musharraf, and yelling: "Long Live Bhutto" and "Prime Minister!
Benazir! Prime Minister! Benazir!"

Today,
the Zardari House buzzed with excitement once again. In fact, when I
arrived, after having been out of the country for the past seven months
(I was kicked out in January by Musharraf's government for writing
about the Pakistani Taliban), it seemed like little had changed. The
ratio of party workers to journalists remained about the same (1:1),
and the chants sounded similar ("Long Live Bhutto" "Prime Minister!
Benazir! Prime Minister! Benazir!"). Of course, in the aftermath of
Bhutto's assassination and numerous threats against Zardari, security
in the neighborhood had been significantly beefed up. Visitors had to
pass through a metal detector, all the homes nearby had raised their
blast walls as much as 40 feet, and police outposts, covered with a
lime green plastic shade and patterned with psychedelic blue and fuscia
flowers, lined the surrounding streets.

Read the rest of Schmidle's account here.

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