Feature

Pakistan without Musharraf

What’s next for the South Asian nation?

What happenedPakistani President Pervez Musharraf stepped down, rather than face impeachment charges. He was replaced by an ally, Mohammedmian Soomro, until the opposition-controlled parliament selects a successor within 30 days. The government is split into two main factions, one led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the other by Asil Asif Zardari, the widower of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. (Bloomberg)

What the commentators saidWith Musharraf gone, said USA Today in an editorial, Pakistan can either move “toward real democracy, another military coup like the one that brought Musharraf to power in 1999, or greater Islamic extremism.” Musharraf thought himself a “benevolent dictator” who could steer Pakistan toward the first option, democracy, but like all autocrats he left his country less democratic, and thus still susceptible to the latter two choices.

Musharraf’s failed push to turn Pakistan into “a progressive model for the Muslim world” will be seen as a wasted opportunity, said India’s The Hindu in an editorial. But his surprisingly “honorable exit” is a testament to the pillars of a fairly healthy state: “the people of Pakistan, their political parties, news media, and civil society institutions.”

Many of Pakistan’s people, said Nicholas Schmidle in Slate, think the weak political parties used impeaching the unpopular Musharraf as a distraction from Pakistan’s deteriorating economy, its ongoing “judicial crisis,” and the growth of Islamic militants. Zardari and Sharif agreed on axing Musharraf, but they seem unable to do anything else.

The struggles between Sharif’s party and Zardari’s, said Ahmed Rashid in The Washington Post, and between the civilian government and the military, are Pakistan’s biggest challenge. None of these factions likes or trusts any of the others, but most Pakistanis still “see the coalition government as the country’s last chance for democracy, and they want it to work.” With cooperation and outside help, it just might.

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