The leaders of Pakistan’s two main opposition parties said Thursday that they would form a coalition government after trouncing supporters of President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections, but they said nothing about the future of Musharraf, a key Bush administration ally in the war on terror. (The New York Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
Musharraf did his nation a huge favor by delivering free elections as promised, said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial, but “he could do it an even greater service by resigning or fading into the background by restoring the presidency to its largely ceremonial role.” He can take heart in the knowledge that voters “rejected the forces of religious extremism” as decisively as they rejected him.
“If the White House wants to counter the global jihadi threat,” said Trudy Rubin in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “it's time to start formulating a post-Musharraf policy. Now.” The irony is that it won’t cost Washington much to drop its unflagging support for the former Pakistani army chief and look for another anti-terrorist champion. The Taliban and al Qaida have thrived in Pakistan “on Musharraf's watch,” so his record won’t be impossible to beat.
“We have been snookered,” said Stanley Kurtz in National Review Online. Liberals and conservatives alike have compared “Musharraf to the alternative of a genuine terror-fighting democracy and find him wanting. That is a mistake. What we should be comparing Musharraf to is the alternative of full-scale war with a chaotic and nuclear-armed Pakistan. We’ve chosen poorly, and the hour is late.”