Musharraf Loses

The most important election this year could be the one just concluded in Pakistan. In spite of the rigging, and the low turnout from an electorate in mortal danger, it looks like a fairly credible result. Musharraf’s allies lost. A good first step on a long road to recovery for Pakistan.

The politicians who won the elections are no saints. Nawaz Sharif shows sympathies towards the radical Muslim clergy. Zardari ( the widower of Benazir Bhutto) is corrupt on a scale only exceeded by Marcos of the Phillipines. Still, even a corrupt, weak and squabbling political leadership is preferable to the military rule which is all Pakistan has known for much of the last sixty years. That is the lesson from the modern history of India. The sleazy, dissembling, unprincipled cut-throats in the Indian Parliament have produced much better results than the swaggering Generals in snazzy uniforms that have run Pakistan. Indian as well as
Pakistani commentators agree on that.

Ex General President Musharraf is the clear loser, although he did not stand for election this time. He won his own Presidential election by throwing the judges, who were about to disqualify him, in jail. In spite of the boasts, it is doubtful if the new Parliament can impeach him. The two main opposition parties combined only has a bare majority, not the two-thirds needed for impeachment. More importantly, the US Administration and its puppets in the Pakistani military are still in support of Musharraf.

Paksitan is better off than a year ago, when the current acute crisis began. That is when Musharraf tried to fire the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. There followed many street protests, terrorist attacks, a fake election of Musharraf as President, the jailing of judges and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The main task of the civilian Government is to rein in the military. The second. equally difficult task, is to control the Taliban insurgency. It remains to be seen if they have the skill to pull it off.

As Churchill pointed out years ago, democracies are more vicious in battle than autocracies. The one beneficiary of Musharraf’s misrule of the last decade has been India. Due to his preoccupations elsewhere, there has been a reduction of infiltrations into Indian Kashmir. With politicians in power, there is the danger that India will become a target again. Also, with the near-unanimous unpopularity of the US in Pakistan, any politician will have to make some overtures to the Islamists. The question is whether such accommodation will take the relatively healthy form in Turkey or the virulent form in much of the rest of the Middle East. The more Pakistan thinks of itself as part of South Asia and not as part of the Middle East, the better its political culture will be.

In spite of the cautions, we are all a bit better off today.

Comments are closed.