Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf promised to move toward democracy with elections in February, but his government sent police to put opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest.
What the commetators said
Musharraf has shown the world his “true face,” said Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer under house arrest, in The Washington Post (free registration). “The Bush administration had built up the general as moderate and benign,” but Pakistinis always knew he was a calculating dictator. Musharraf has soothed Washington and justified his anti-democratic ways by promising to reverse Pakistan’s “creeping Talibanization,” but he can’t and won’t deliver. He just wants to stay in power.
Musharraf is certainly a “far cry from the stabilizer he may have been,” said The Washington Times in an editorial. But his promise to hold elections in February offer “some relief.” The U.S. must “pull out all the stops to see that the elections proceed,” and that in the meantime Musharraf allows “the political opposition some breathing room.”
The White House was quick to praise Musharraf for promising elections, said the Oregonian in an editorial, but it’s far too soon to declare “the crisis at an end.” Musharraf figured the U.S. would look the other way as he declared martial law and threw political rivals in jail, because Washington’s main desire is “a stable Pakistan that keeps its nuclear capabilities in check and helps in the war on terror.” But we have to be able to get along with Pakistan’s next leader, too.
The best option Musharraf has left us, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post (free registration), “is to try to broker a truce” with the democratic opposition “before the blood starts to flow,” and to “guarantee him a dignified and gradual exit” once Bhutto and her allies win at the polls and “claim legitimate authority.”