While international attention focuses on Beijing’s determination to manufacture the perfect Nikki Webster-style cutie-pie for the opening ceremony, with the odd glance in the general direction of South Ossetia, Pakistan has been engulfed by (yet more) political upheaval and violence.

Today is Independence Day, and there has been speculation in the Pakistani media that President Musharraf might choose this grand occasion to finally announce his resignation, ahead of a parliamentary vote to impeach him. But today’s papers carry reports that negotiations for his departure are still continuing, as Musharraf holds out for a watertight safe-passage and guarantee of indemnity.

Political foes Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have come together in the drive to impeach Musharraf. In the months following his wife’s assassination, Zardari (urged on by the Bush administration) was prepared to work with Musharraf, while also embarking on a political coalition with Sharif.

But Sharif, who had been thrown out of office and jailed by Musharraf, was unforgiving. Zardari has squandered the public sympathy over the death of his wife by playing political footsies with the president who is popularly believed to be responsible for her death. Sharif’s refusal to do likewise has allowed him to position himself as the more credible leader.

Musharraf has only held on this long thanks to the support of the Bush administration. But that support, too, seems to be finally running dry, with reports that American officials now believe that it was a mistake to rely so heavily on Musharraf to deal with al-Qaida.

The Pakistani military, while not prepared to see its former head humiliated, reportedly no longer regards his presidency as serving the national interest. And while Musharraf retains the constitutional power to dismiss the parliament, this would only delay the inevitable — and make it more messy.

Meanwhile, the bloodshed continues, with at least nine people killed in a suicide blast in Lahore just before midnight last night. This follows shortly after thirteen people were killed by a bomb in Peshawar.

The Lahore bomb seems to have been targeting policemen, while the bomb in Peshawar killed six air-force personnel. But unlucky civilians were also killed in both attacks. Sadly, more Pakistanis are likely to meet a similar fate in the coming days and weeks.

Peter Fray

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