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After Pakistan election, Musharraf has few good options

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At the moment, Mr. Musharraf's departure does not seem imminent. Nawaz Sharif has demanded that he step down, and Asif Zardari has said he will bring the issue before parliament. As the leaders of the two biggest winners in Monday's vote, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), respectively, their positions are significant.

But Musharraf has refused, and Messrs. Zardari and Sharif are just beginning to try to form a coalition government together – a process that could take days. With only five seats remaining undeclared, the PPP had 88 seats and the PML-N 65 in the 272-seat National Assembly. The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), which supports Musharraf, had 37.

Musharraf strikes a cooperative tone

In the few public statements Musharraf has made since the election, he has struck a cooperative tone, suggesting he will work with whoever comes to power. He will have little choice, particularly if the PPP and PML-N succeed in forming a coalition.

"He has no cards to play," says Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at the Lahore University of Management Science. If Musharraf uses his presidential power to defy the new legislature or dissolve it, the political opposition "could shut down Pakistan with one phone call, and he could not control that."

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