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Is Musharraf losing his grip?

  • Story Highlights
  • Suicide attacks becoming accepted daily occurrence in Pakistan
  • 60 attacks in 2007, up ten fold from the previous year
  • Poll finds that half of Pakistanis want President Musharraf to quit
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By Zein Basravi for CNN
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Deadly suicide bombings are becoming an accepted part of daily life in Pakistan, with each new attack appearing to chip away at President Pervez Musharraf's waning popularity.

President Musharraf pictured at World Economic Forum in Davos.

President Musharraf pictured at World Economic Forum in Davos.

Close to 60 attacks across the country in 2007, up tenfold from the previous year, are increasing security fears in urban areas.

Violent attacks are moving from rural parts of Pakistan into major urban centers and some analysts say Musharraf's legacy is tied to the instability in the country.

"I think he'll be rated poorly, because extremism and terrorism has increased during his period," said Lt. Gen ret. Talat Masood.

"And same goes for democracy. In fact democracy has suffered enormously because all institutions in Pakistan have been decapitated or decimated."

A recent poll by Gallup Pakistan found that 50 percent of the country feels that Musharraf's departure would help put a stop to terrorism and 70 percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the president.

"He has to leave," Masood said, adding: "Today he has become a symbol of divisiveness."

Masood, along with other retired officers from Pakistan's armed forces, recently called for the Pakistani leader to step down for the greater good of the country. Video CNN's Jennifer Eccleston looks at the state of modern Pakistan »

In an interview with CNN's Becky Anderson at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the president said he does not give much credence to Gallup polls in Pakistan and said they are unreliable.

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Many of Musharraf's supporters also say he is the most sincere leader in the country and there is no one strong enough to take his place.

While Musharraf's popularity is plunging at home and abroad, a dearth of good leaders has many Pakistanis reluctant to see him go, nervous about what will follow.

"I keep saying that I have introduced the essence of democracy," Musharraf said.

"Why do I keep saying that? Because we've introduced the third tier of government; we¹ve empowered the people. That was never there."

Musharraf added that his government was responsible for bolstering the democratic process in Pakistan, empowering local government, women and minorities as well as cleaning up a deeply flawed electoral system.

He has also been urging his ministers to do whatever they can to assure "free, fair, transparent and peaceful" elections.

But since March 2007, democracy in Pakistan has been plagued by images broadcast around the globe of violent clashes between police and lawyers following the overthrow of the country's top judge, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

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With suicide attacks on the rise, the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, violence in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan and crippling food, water and power shortages, the people's confidence in the Pakistani leader has been shaken.

In a country where Osama bin Laden still enjoys widespread popularity, Musharraf faces an uphill climb in winning back popular support. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston contributed to this report.

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