NEWS, ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The long and winding path to democracy

Washington envisions a Pakistan beyond Musharraf

President Bush continues to praise Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf as a valued ally in the war on terror. At the same time, US officials are pressuring the military leader over his declaration of emergency law – though some Pakistanis call it pressure with kid gloves – as if he were the only acceptable game in Islamabad.

Yet even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argues for patience toward General Musharraf, some US officials and South Asia experts are doing what they say the US has failed to do: envision and prepare for a post-Musharraf Pakistan.

“Washington’s approach to Pakistan has always been that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know. But there is every reason to believe that with Musharraf and Pakistan, that is not the case,” says Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy in Washington. “Musharraf has blinded Washington over and over again with a mastery of blackmail, but in the two areas we worry most about – nuclear proliferation and Islamist extremism – there are alternatives that are just as good, if not better.” [complete article]

Musharraf’s survival may hinge on elections

The Bush administration is betting that President Pervez Musharraf can survive the crisis in Pakistan if he moves decisively to lift emergency rule and hold elections over the next two months, despite new U.S. intelligence concerns about the dangers of long-term instability or, worse, a political vacuum, U.S. officials say. Timing is the key, they add.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday called on Musharraf to restore constitutional rule “as soon as possible.” The administration is considering sending a senior official to Islamabad this week to tell the Pakistani leader that he must urgently rescind restrictions on the media, civil society and opposition politicians, which could discredit any January elections — and endanger both Pakistan’s stability and his political future, the sources said. [complete article]

See also, Some doubt Musharraf can be ousted (LAT) and Pakistan to detain Bhutto in bid to stop protest march (NYT).

Editor’s Comment — Funny how an administration that is “dedicated to helping the Pakistani people come to a more democratic path” places all its attention on the theater of (riggable) elections yet says nothing about reinstituting the judiciary. The path to democracy is clearly much more appealing than the destination.

And how representative of Washington thinking is this? One former State official envisages one post-Musharraf scenario this way:

A less favorable alternative for the US, Markey, says, would be the rise of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“That wouldn’t mean an extremist Pakistan, but they just aren’t as keen on working that closely with the US, and they don’t see the world through Washington’s lenses,” says Markey.

Neocolonialism is alive and well. Can you imagine anyone in Pakistan saying, “We fear the next US president might be one who doesn’t see the world through Islamabad’s lenses”?

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