Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned home from exile and registered as a candidate in crucial January elections, but threatened to boycott unless President Pervez Musharraf lifts emergency rule. "I have come to save this country," said Sharif, whose return increased pressure on Musharraf to restore the country’s constitution. (The New York Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
Musharraf’s attempt to “re-engineer” Pakistani politics has “ended in defeat,” said Simon Cameron-Moore in Reuters.com. In the eight years since he took power—from Sharif—in a coup, Musharraf has tried to keep Sharif and another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, out so he could rule unchallenged. The three leaders will have to find a way to live together now.
Instead of plunging U.S. forces into the no-man’s land near the Afghan border in search of terrorists, said the International Herald Tribune in an editorial, President Bush should focus on ending the political crisis that threatens Pakistan’s “very core and America’s strategic interests.” Pressuring Bhutto to “expend her credibility” by striking a power deal with Musharraf was a mistake, because “encouraging her to work with” her longtime rival Sharif is the only way to “build a broad civilian democratic front.”
That’s “nonsense,” said Stanley Kurtz in National Review Online. Sharif doesn't have “a democratic bone in his body," and Bhutto's no prize, either. It would be irresponsible to cut Musharraf and the army out of power and hold “the war on terror hostage” in the name of restoring Pakistani democracy, because that’s something that has never really existed.