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Schmidle: Witnessing Musharraf's End

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.