This wasn't how Musharraf had planned it. After the Oct. 10 general elections, he hoped to introduce an obedient Parliament that would dress up his dictatorship in civilian clothes. What he got was the opposite: an angry rabble of political enemies in the 342-seat National Assembly. The Pakistan Muslim League, which was to carry out Musharraf's bidding, fell way short of a majority. Suddenly, he had to contend with wrathful, anti-American clergymen and wily old pols from the traditional parties that he had tried to crush. Everybody was itching for a fight.
Even then, Musharraf's candidate for Prime Minister only squeaked through—by a single vote. Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali, 58, is a tribal chieftain from Baluchistan and a former national field hockey player, who is now expected to wield a big stick against the politicians on the general's behalf. It is unlikely that Jamali, a bearish, jovial man, will be able to do so. He won just 172 of the 329 votes cast. And even that thinnest of margins was suspect: a rule forbidding party defections was waived at Musharraf's behest, so that 10 PPP legislators could switch sides and back the army's man. "Democratic values have failed today," lamented Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the PPP's losing prime ministerial candidate, who claims his supporters were either threatened or offered top government jobs in return for crossing over. These legislators countered that they jumped over altruistically to break the deadlock on choosing a Prime Minister.
The religious parties in Parliament are leading the charge against Musharraf, furious at him for helping the Bush Administration hunt down al-Qaeda terrorists both in Pakistan and next door in Afghanistan. Some Pakistanis, even inside the army, think Musharraf has gone too far, and public resentment against the U.S. is deepening. This fury is channeled through an Islamic group known as the Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the third-biggest faction in Parliament. An example of what's in store for Musharraf—and Washington—occurred last week when MMA chiefs started the parliamentary session with a prayer for Mir Aimal Kasi, who was executed by lethal injection in Virginia on Nov. 14 for assassinating two CIA agents.
Washington may be starting to wonder about Musharraf, too. First came the recent embarrassing revelations that Pakistan, supposedly a close U.S. ally, was secretly helping the North Koreans procure materials to build a nuclear bomb. Then, last week a Lahore court released Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the leader of a banned Islamic militant organization with past links to al-Qaeda, claiming he had been unlawfully detained. Army support for Musharraf may also be slipping: diplomats say MMA leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed may have met with officials of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency before demanding that the President step down as army chief. With such tawdry beginnings, Musharraf's guided democracy may have already lost its way.