March 17, 2008

A New Pakistan – Agreement on a more democratic system is close, but Pervez Musharraf must let it happen.

Filed under: MILITARY RULE — civilsocietypakistan @ 12:26 pm
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MARCH 16, 2008


Sunday, March 16, 2008; Page B06

PAKISTAN IS on the verge of taking a major step toward consolidating a centrist, secular democracy — the best antidote to the Islamist extremism threatening the country. The crucial remaining question is whether President Pervez Musharraf, and his allies in the Bush administration, will allow it to happen.

The potential breakthrough comes in the agreement of the two largest political parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muslim League, to form a coalition government that will hold a commanding majority in the Parliament elected last month. People’s Party leader Asif Ali Zadari, the widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and Muslim League chief Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister, agreed to implement a Charter for Democracy that Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif hammered out in 2006 while they were living in exile. They plan to reform the constitution to eliminate autocratic powers accumulated by Mr. Musharraf following his 1999 coup against a democratic government, including the right to name commanders of the armed forces.

Even more important, the new government plans to restore the 63 senior judges — including members of the Supreme Court — illegally fired by Mr. Musharraf in November in a second coup intended to ensure himself another term as president. The defense of the dismissed judges, some of whom are still under house arrest, and the larger cause of building a genuinely independent judiciary have become the country’s most popular political movement. When they are restored to the bench and controls imposed by Mr. Musharraf on the media are removed, Pakistan could have the most liberal and open political system in its history. That is the long-term solution to the assault on the country by the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other Islamist fanatics, who so far this year have carried out 16 suicide bombings and killed more than 500 people — making Pakistan almost as violent as Iraq.

The last obstacle is Mr. Musharraf himself, who has clung to the office of president despite the overwhelming repudiation of his party in last month’s elections. Retired from the Army, Mr. Musharraf has one last base of support is the Bush administration, which stubbornly continues to back him. Fearful of what a restored Supreme Court might rule about his clearly illegitimate presidential mandate, the president is still trying to strike a deal to remain in office. If he doesn’t get his way, he could refuse to recognize Parliament’s authority or try to dissolve it after it convenes this week.

In short, only the personal ambitions of Mr. Musharraf, and the Bush administration’s support for them, threaten to disrupt the establishment of a more democratic Pakistan. President Bush, who claims to believe that the replacement of autocrats with secular democratic governments is a key U.S. interest, should act on his own principle. He should tell Mr. Musharraf either to accept the decisions of the new government and courts, or step down.


1 Comment »

  1. I think Mr. Mush have no prop from anyone else without City Mafia so-called MQM that is why he should risign for better and transparnt ruler pakistan

    Comment by Muhammad Moosa Rind — March 18, 2008 @ 6:53 am | Reply

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