18 August 2008

New era of democracy in Pakistan?

Under pressure over impending impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced that he would resign Monday, ending nearly nine years as one of the United States’ most important allies in the campaign against terrorism.

("President Musharraf of Pakistan Resigns," NY Times, 18 August 2008)

The immediate reaction in Pakistan’s corridors of power and streets to the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf was one of optimism and opportunity.

("Pakistan Looks Ahead to Life Without Musharraf," NY Times, 18 August 2008)

Eight months ago, Pakistan was ruled by a military dictator. He had declared a state of emergency to maintain his hold on power, stacked Parliament with his cronies, dismissed 57 judges who opposed his rule; his chief civilian opponent had been assassinated, and other opposition parties were threatening to boycott the upcoming rigged elections.

Apparently, they were not rigged well. The dictator's party suffered an embarrassing defeat, winning only 16% of seats in the National Assembly. A few months later, opposition leaders were calling for his impeachment and exile. Now Musharraf has resigned in attempt to preempt prosecution.

What happened? He was obviously ruthless enough to preserve his power. Why didn't he? I'm not sure anyone knows. ("The Musharraf Enigma," Economist, 20 February 2008)

Now what? The two major opposition parties are arch-rivals. One is openly Islamist. Will they be able to hold together a stable government? Will that government even try to crack down on Al-Qaeda armies within the nation's borders, let alone succeed?

The world watches with almost as much interest as they showed in whether Phelps would win his eighth gold medal.

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