Democracy Dawns in Pakistan
Sixty years after Pakistan's independence the people of Pakistan for the first time could participate in free and fair elections which could not have taken place as such but for the intense international pressure on General Musharraf. The presence of hundreds of international observers and media persons prevented election rigging by Musharraf and his military regime. Left to his own devices General Musharraf would have done otherwise.
Democracy has finally dawned in Pakistan as the results of the General Elections of February 18, 2008 indicate. Though Pakistan's military dictator for the last eight years General Musharraf was not on the ballot but the Pakistani people in no uncertain terms made their rejection of him and Pakistan Army rule clear by voting out his mainstay political party and all politicians closely allied with him.
Democracy however imperfect to begin with does not provide excuses for the politically meddlesome Pakistan Army and its Generals to take over the governance of Pakistan and this is an eventuality once again possible going by the political intrigues that Musharraf has undertaken ever since the results rejecting him have emerged. The international community has to remain vigilant on this count.
More importantly it is the people of Pakistan who have to be vigilant and make sure their hard won battle for democracy in Pakistan is not negated once again by Army Generals and by the political leaders falling prey to the subterfuges of General Musharraf to divide them.
Pakistan's political leaders must recognize that a historic opportunity has come their way by a fortuitous combination of circumstances but chiefly from the Pakistani peoples struggles for democracy ever since March 09, 2007 led not by the politicians but by the lawyers, civil society activists , women organizations and students.
Such has been the animosity generated by General Musharraf against his regime that for the first time in Pakistan's history, retired Generals and senior officers of Pakistan's Armed Forces were demonstrating opposite Pakistan General Headquarters demanding that General Musharraf should quit from the helm of affairs in Pakistan and that democratic rule be brought in. This was unprecedented and it was probably this factor that prompted the United States to recognize that General Musharraf had gone too far and his strategic utility for the United States was coming to an end.
The next few days are going to be nerve-racking for the Pakistani people as the maneuvering to form the Government by all concerned has commenced. As far as the leaders of the two largest political parties are concerned, namely, Asif Zardari of the PPP and former PM Nawaz Sharif, both have displayed welcome signs of forming a political coalition to form the Government at the Centre and also in the provincial assemblies.
But what is disturbing are the reports coming in that General Musharraf is trying to persuade the US Administration that they should prevail over Asif Zardari that he should not join hands with former PM Nawaz Sharif but on the contrary join hands to form a coalition with the pro-Musharraf parties.
One can sincerely hope that the United States realizes that this would be counter-productive for United States long term strategic interests and amount to the United States negating the verdict of the people of Pakistan. As it is the Pakistanis today are the most anti-US nation today. Further meddling in the political affairs of Pakistan in favor of General Musharraf and against the Pakistani peoples verdict would mark the end of United States influence in Pakistan and the region.
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Dr. Subhash Kapila
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