Pakistani opposition leaders called for President Pervez Musharraf to step down as the government pushed back parliamentary elections from Jan. 8 to Feb. 18. Unrest in the wake of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has stoked fears of a political meltdown in the face of rising Islamic militant violence. (Time.com)
What the commentators said
Postponing the elections “would have been helpful” in another context, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). But the danger now is that the move is just another attempt by Musharraf to “shore up his own faltering political position.” If Musharraf really wants to do some good, he’ll announce his willingness to step down, restore full press and judicial freedom, and focus on ensuring truly fair elections.
The postponement only “adds weight to speculation that those in the Musharraf regime are up to no good,” said Reuben F. Johnson in The Daily Standard. Islamabad had already fueled conspiracy theories by saying that Bhutto had been killed when a suicide bomb sent her head slamming into the handle of her vehicle’s sunroof, even though a witness’ videotape clearly showed her being shot in the back of the head moments before the blast.
President Bush can’t afford to coddle Musharraf any longer, said The Boston Globe in an editorial (free registration). “Instead of praising Musharraf as a man of his word, Bush should tell him that he will no longer tolerate unkept promises or be satisfied with obvious lies.” A good first step would be for the U.S. to sponsor a Security Council resolution to send a United Nations investigator to look into Bhutto’s murder.