August 18th, 2008


Today Will Be History

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has resigned.

And, I think, not a moment too soon. Whatever noble intentions for Pakistan he brought with his military coup in 1999 seems to have slowly eroded over time. But it all pretty much started to go to hell last year, when he fired Pakistan's chief justice for questioning his legitimacy. After the resulting protests began, he imposed a state of emergency in November, suspending the constitution, firing the entire judiciary and delaying an election that would almost certainly have seen him ousted from office. Lawyers were beaten in the streets, political activists were detained, the press was censored. In December, he all but ensured popular political rival and one-time exile Benazir Bhutto's assassination by militants by giving her only a minimal security force. All of it was enough to make him lose control of Pakistan's parliamentary government to a coalition of rivals in February's election.

I hope whoever takes his place is not only a better person but will do what Musharraf either couldn't or was reluctant to do. Namely, hunt down Osama bin Laden and the rest of the al Qaeda/Taliban militants along the Pakistan/Afghan border.

By the way, this is my favorite bit of the article linked to above. It speaks brilliantly about the cyclical nature of politics, and how people's political memories are sometimes very short.

In pockets of the Pakistani capital yesterday, political activists took to the streets exultantly raising chants against Musharraf. The scenes were reproduced in other major cities, chiefly Lahore, where political power lies with Musharraf's most devoted political enemy, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — the man he overthrew in 1999, who now leads the second largest party in the coalition government. Keen observers of Pakistan's turbulent years could not help but notice the irony. When Sharif's last government fell, delighted Pakistanis poured out on to the streets to cheer the army's intervention. Now the tables have turned. The civilian coalition government has faced down the former general, and recent opinion polls establish Nawaz Sharif as the country's most popular politician.