February 24, 2008


Filed under: POST-ELECTIONS 2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 1:20 am
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Sunday, February 24, 2008 THE NEWSEDITORIAL
Apparently desperate to save its ally, President Pervez Musharraf, western envoys led by the US, have been urging PPP and PML-N leaders to work with Musharraf as they form the new government. It has been reported that a similar suggestion has been made to Asfandyar Wali, whose party will govern NWFP — a province crucial to any victory in the so-called war on terror. Indeed, a visiting US congressional delegation too made a beeline for Mr Zardari (his second such meeting with US members of Congress since the polls), while Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher has indicated his government believes Musharraf can play a useful role in the new setup. Abandoning the line he adopted in the weeks after the declaration of emergency on November 3, when he asked the US to let Pakistan’s resolve its own problems, President Musharraf appears to have had yet another schizophrenic mood swing and now says democracy in Pakistan cannot survive without US support.

Washington, which so often adopts a high moral ground on the issue of democracy, has to realize that this right must be granted to the Pakistani people in principle, as well as in theory. The people have delivered an emphatic vote against President Musharraf and his allies. It was, at least in part, the US-dictated policy that played a role in the downfall of a man who, five years ago, enjoyed some genuine popularity. Furthermore, the perceptions regarding US intervention in Pakistan, its unjust policies in the Middle East, alleged bias against Islam and the horrendous abuses at Guantanamo Bay have built support for anti-US forces in the country and only served to complicate the crucial task of ending their reign in Pakistan’s north. If a report in the New York Times of Feb 22 is to be believed, US officials are worried that a secret agreement that allows the US to fly its drones over FATA with greater frequency may be in jeopardy with the coming into being of a new government and with a weakened President Musharraf. Put two and two together and the great interest of several members of Congress as well as the US ambassador in meeting Mr Zardari becomes evident.

As for the president, the widely-held perception that he was largely a US puppet went against him at the ballot. If they have even a modicum of commitment to Pakistan and to the need to end terror within it, the US must realize that the first step is to respect the mandate of the people. The parties citizens have voted in can succeed in their challenging task of governing a country weakened by violence, internal friction and economic crisis only if they are able to retain the support of the people. If there is a feeling that these leaders too, like those before them, are following directives issued from Washington, this will invariably weaken and damage them, making Pakistan even less governable than it now is.

The US then has to understand no further efforts must be made to intervene in the democratic process in Pakistan. It is also a fact that the man who the US continues to back has in many ways become a central part of Pakistan’s problems rather than a possible contributor to their solution. President Musharraf today inspires so much distrust that it seems impossible to work towards an answer to key dilemmas in his presence. These difficult dilemmas include the judicial stand-off which led to the current crisis in the first place and the conflict with extremists who seem to have resumed their campaigns of bombing and abduction. Building a common, national front is essential to overcome these odds. Permitting elected parties to themselves determine the question of the presidency, in keeping with the provisions laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan, is thus crucial to their chances of success. It would be grossly unfair to weigh them down with so immense a burden as the president, even as they start their stormy journey across troubled seas.

The people who make decisions in Washington must then learn from the past. Over the last five years they have made many new enemies in the country. They must now understand the need to keep their hands off Pakistan, if they are to avoid creating within it more turmoil and more of the chaos that can only fuel militancy.


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