Feature

Pakistan: An imperfect friend

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf asked the West to be patient with the slow pace of democratic reform in his country as attacks by Islamic extremists mounted. Musharraf is "his own worst enemy," said The New York Times. Pakistan's problem is

What happened
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Monday called on the West to be patient with the slow pace of democratic reform in his country, and promised that Feb. 18 parliamentary elections would be fair. (Detroit Free Press) A top U.S. commander met with Pakistan’s army chief to discuss the security situation after government troops clashed with supporters of a Taliban commander suspected in last month’s assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. (Reuters in The Washington Post, free registration)

What the commentators said
By focusing on countering what he calls “Western propaganda,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration), Musharraf is showing once again that “he is his own worst enemy and Pakistan’s as well.” Pakistan’s real problem is the Islamic militant groups that the country’s intelligence service helped create, only to see them launch attacks on the government—possibly including former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Musharraf should work with “whatever leaders the election produces,” and start fighting the true enemy for a change.

“There are signs that Pakistan's leaders finally are waking up to the threat” of the Islamic jihadists, said Joseph Galloway in The Miami Herald (free registration). The flurry of recent attacks has shown that the extremists who poured into Pakistan from neighboring Afghanistan six years ago are “beginning to realize that Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal, is a much juicier target than Afghanistan.”

The Bush administration has had to lower its already modest hopes for Pakistan, said Paul Richter in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). The goal of “a stable, somewhat democratic government that would fight against Islamic militants” has been replaced by a “push for fair elections in February, hoping they will give President Pervez Musharraf greater legitimacy and Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party a stabilizing secondary role in the government.” An imperfect friend is better than no friend at all.

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