Saturday, August 09, 2008

Mushararf Under Fire: NYT

Musharraf Under Fire
Editorial: New York Times, August 9, 2008

Pakistan’s civilian leaders stirred a new political hornet’s nest by declaring their intention to impeach President Pervez Musharraf. It is not certain whether they will succeed, but it is clear that the issue must be resolved with speed and respect for democracy.

The coalition government that was elected in February has been weak, fractious and fumbling. It must get beyond the paralyzing political dispute with Mr. Musharraf and begin focusing seriously on bringing stability to the nuclear-armed country. It also must grapple with its many daunting problems, including a faltering economy and the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The coalition leaders — Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, a two-time former prime minister — plan to have the National Assembly, Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament, initiate proceedings as early as Monday. The process, which Mr. Musharraf helped accelerate by threatening to dismiss Parliament, could well be protracted.

There are other less disruptive ways for Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif to air their differences with Mr. Musharraf. They have yet, for example, to fulfill their pledge to reinstate the Supreme Court judges who were fired by Mr. Musharraf last November and who are expected to rule that his October 2007 re-election is invalid.

Impeachment, which has never happened to a president in Pakistan, would be a long fall for Mr. Musharraf. The former army general took power in a 1999 coup and used dictatorial means to retain power before the February elections put his political adversaries in charge of the government and marginalized him. He would do everyone a favor if he agreed to resign and left politics.

However troubled his former army colleagues may be at this turn of events, they must not stage another coup to protect Mr. Musharraf. His successor as military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, has distinguished himself by promising repeatedly that the army would stay out of politics. Keeping that promise is vital.

Similarly, President Bush, who for too long enabled Mr. Musharraf and undercut democracy in Pakistan, must resist any temptation to intervene on the former general’s behalf. That would further alienate Pakistanis and fuel instability.

There are no quick and easy fixes for Pakistan, but it will have no chance if its civilian leaders, its army and the United States do not work together to build more effective democratic governance, an economic future and a coordinated plan for routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Also See:
Musharraf's day of reckoning - Independent
Pakistan army to ask Pervez Musharraf to resign - Telegraph
No surrender: Musharraf in appeal to army - The Australian
Musharraf Plans Spirited Defense - New York Times

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