Second time lucky for Musharraf


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 28 Dec 2003

DHAKA: The meaning of two successive assassination attempts on the Pakistani president is lost on nobody. Neither is the implication on Pakistan, if those attempts had succeeded. 

We, therefore, are greatly relieved that the general is still at the helm of Pakistan's affairs. This is because we think that if Pakistan ever needed him – now is the time. 

Though, as a newspaper, we are fundamentally opposed to military rule, and have said so repeatedly ever since Musharraf's takeover, we are, however, forced to acknowledge that he has navigated Pakistan very skilfully through extremely treacherous national and international waters. 

He has taken bold steps against religious extremism, has dealt a severe blow to the Talibanisation of his country and generally has taken a modernist line in conducting Pakistan's affairs. These could have been the reasons for the attempts on his life, and that is precisely the reason for our relief at their failure. 

President Musharraf can be said to sitting in perhaps the hottest government seat in the world. On the one hand, he is under pressure from the US to help hunt down terrorists and Islamic extremists. On the other, he cannot go too far in that direction, to retain the domestic constituency that he must have to be effective. 

He sees the need to go for rapprochement with India and yet cannot seen to be making too many concessions on Kashmir. And finally, he cannot continue to rule as a military dictator without any legitimacy and hence must take steps towards handing over power to an elected government.  

All sides considered, he cannot be said to be in an enviable position by any stretch of the imagination. What the world is now eagerly waiting an answer to is whether he still enjoys the Pakistani army's total loyalty or are these attempts on his life indications of an erosion of the army's loyalty towards him? 

It is our belief that he has already taken too long to democratise Pakistan's politics. 

He cannot let Pakistan go the extremist route, and to prevent that he must get the people behind him.  

So he must hold elections at the earliest and hand over power to an elected government.  

Democracy has a way of finding solutions in tough situations. The tasks are easier outlined than done but that is the type of challenge the Pakistani president faces. Good luck to him and to the people of Pakistan. 

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