ISLAMABAD-The Bush administration has conveyed to political and security leadership of Pakistan that it no longer considers President Gen.(Retd) Pervez Musharraf as indispensable to its interests in the region, but would like his exit to be as smooth as possible, it is reliably learnt This sharp twist in Washington's thinking, according to knowledgeable sources, stems from a reassessment of the fast changing ground realities on Pakistan's political landscape. The groundswell of popular anger and resentment against Musharraf, voiced through the lawyers and his erstwhile buddies, has become irresistible. It is now evident that Musharraf's position is increasingly becoming untenable and the administration can support him only at the cost of a severe damage to its interest in the region. Policy planners in the State Department and Pentagon have held this view for quite long since the stunning outcome of the February 18 polls. They were, however, hamstrung by President Bush's stubborn defence of his trusted ally. 'This hurdle has now been removed', says a diplomatic source privy to the fresh signals coming from Washington. It is believed that President George Bush, Musharraf's only backer left in Washington, has finally been persuaded to accept the inevitable and be prepared to bid adieu to his beleaguered friend. The administration analysts agree that a qualitative change has already occurred in Pakistan's political landscape in which Musharraf's ability to influence policies and course of events has diminished substantially. Those who matter in the new dispensation include coalition leadership, with Asif Zardari sitting on top, and the Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani as key factor in decision-making on issues like terrorism. Musharraf is left with no levers to influence either of the two sets of wielders of power in Pakistan. The US President, however, is worried that Musharraf's detractors may humiliate him by dragging him to courts or instituting impeachment process in the Parliament for which requisite numbers are available to the coalition. Such an outcome would also have a devastating impact on domestic political scenario in US for the Republican Party in the November elections. It would, however, be different if Musharraf is allowed a graceful departure. The US diplomats are currently busy to ensure such an outcome. Initial vibes from Washington about a distinct shift in US stance were subtle and guarded. But the PPP Co-Chairman's outburst against Musharraf in a PTI interview had panicked both Musharraf and his American friends. Zardari bluntly described Musharraf a relic of the past for whose ouster he is under tremendous public pressure. His statement smashed a fairyland edifice Musharraf was attempting to erect through realignment of political forces. This strategy relied on bringing PPP closer to the MQM and the PML-Q for new permutation in which his inveterate foe Nawaz Sharif was to be isolated. Musharraf sought an urgent meeting with Army Chief Gen. Kayani. The news was leaked out in a manner which evoked a statement from President Bush. Though it hardly indicated any departure from the innocuous expression of support to Pakistan and a desire to work with the President of Pakistan (so long Musharraf holds that position), the Presidency projected it in a way that the concerned quarters in Pakistan were led to read too much in it. This was followed by a pious desire conveyed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her meeting with Pakistan's Ambassador-designate Hussain Haqqani that the 'US would like President Pervez Musharraf to continue in office'. It is not clear whether the phraseology used in the news report about the meeting reflects Ms. Rice's actual words or has been given a spin by Haqqani who is known for his great skill as spin master. The meeting coincided with the significant presence in Pakistan of US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Admiral Mullen. He had extensive meetings with Army chief and the President. The American message is now clear and loud. Musharraf must not resist the inevitable change. The political and military leadership would manage things in a way that this change is not violent and humiliating to the General. The immediate challenge faced by Musharraf and his mentors, as also Asif Zardari, is the planned long march by lawyers beginning on June 10. It promises to be a huge affair being compared by organizers akin to 'Orange Revolution'. If the mobs encircle Army House, the institution of Army would be put under severe strain. Gen. Kayani has rightly resisted pressure from Musharraf and politicians to take sides for obvious reasons. He is struggling to distance his institution from politics and rehabilitate its image. Spurred by the US and for his selfish interests that coincide with those of Musharraf, Asif Zardari has hitherto stood between the popular aspirations and the deposed judges to block their restoration at the enormous cost of his own and PPP's credibility. His legal advisers- Naek, Khosa, Awan- have put him on a collision course with the lawyers, civil society and common people. Pulling the strings behind the scene are Musharraf, his legal team and some incumbent judges. He has tried various initiatives to deflect attention away from the march with little success. The Constitutional Package, Kalabagh Dam controversy, delay in announcement of budget are some of these gimmicks which are bound to backfire. In a cavalier fashion Zardari recently confided to friends that: 'If they pressurise me too much, I would rather pack up the National Assembly, call fresh elections and let them deal with the President and the Army'. While it will not save Musharraf, for the PPP it is a sure recipe for disaster. The coming week promises to be a defining moment in country's history. One has to cross fingers and watch how Musharraf, Asif Zardari and his party face the gathering storm that PPP's own Aitzaz Ahsan and his hordes in black coats would be riding.