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Pakistan's power deal
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto hit a bump, but she's scheduled to return to Pakistan next week under a deal with President Pervez Musharraf, who was reelected over the weekend. The vote was "a perversion of democracy," said The New York Ti
W

hat happened
A judge in Pakistan Tuesday denied a request from former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in case the government arrests her after she returns from exile next week. The judge ruled Tuesday that the bail wouldn’t be necessary, because President Pervez Musharraf last week signed an amnesty clearing Bhutto and other opposition politicians of corruption charges. Musharraf was reelected in a Saturday election boycotted by the opposition.

What the commentators said
Musharraf’s “election” was “a perversion of democracy,” said The New York Times in an editorial. The opposition knew “how badly the deck was stacked,” so it “refused to participate.” Shame on Washington for approving Musharraf’s “backroom deal” with the “flawed” Bhutto, which allowed her to escape corruption charges and let Musharraf win a new term. Instead of encouraging “cynical deal-making,” the Bush administration should be pushing Musharraf to move “from military to civilian democratic rule,” starting with “free and fair” parliamentary elections early next year.

If the Supreme Court validates Musharraf’s win—even though he was elected as civilian president while still an army general—he will have almost everything he wants, said Rasul Bakhsh Rais in Pakistan’s Daily Times. But he has lost “the people’s trust.” The masses once loved him. But “it is beyond belief that the general who promised” to “bring all the corrupt politicians to justice is virtually on his knees begging support for anything they want in return.”

The cloud over Musharraf’s electoral win should serve as a reminder of the storm looming over Pakistan, said The Washington Times in an editorial. The country’s lawless tribal areas remain “an international nerve center of al Qaida activity,” and the pro-U.S. Musharraf has been unable to do much about it because his intelligence service “remains infested” with terrorist sympathisizers. The challenge for Musharraf, and for Bhutto, will be to “stand up to those dark forces” determined to “perpetuate their country’s role as a haven for gangsters who want to kill Americans.”

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