It appears that President Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League-Q party is headed for a devastating loss in today’s parliamentary election. I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of Pakistan’s electoral system, but the New York Times says the victorious opposition parties “may even try to remove [Musharraf].” I should think so! And, in any event, news reports suggest that Musharraf is ready to step down and perhaps leave the country.
Pakistan’s Parliament has 272 seats, and it now appears that around 110 will go to the Pakistan People’s Party, formerly headed by Benazir Bhutto, while another 100 will be won by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N. (No, I don’t understand these designations, either.) Musharraf’s party may hold as few as 20 to 30 seats when the ballots are all counted.
The Times, predictably, is ecstatic over this result, viewing it as a defeat for the Bush administration:
The results were interpreted here as a repudiation of Mr. Musharraf as well as the Bush administration, which has staunchly backed Mr. Musharraf for eight years as its best bet in the campaign against the Islamic militants in Pakistan. American officials will have little choice now but to seek alternative allies from among the new political forces emerging from the vote.
As so often happens, the Times’ political enthusiasm overwhelms its concern for factual accuracy: the Bush administration has only been in office for seven years, so it could hardly have “staunchly backed” Musharraf for eight.
Moreover, I have no recollection of any affinity between President Bush and Musharraf prior to September 11, 2001. Musharraf has said that in the aftermath of that attack, Bush threatened to bomb Pakistan if Musharraf did not cooperate in fighting Islamic terrorists. Bush obviously had to deal with the situation on the ground in Central Asia as he found it, and I haven’t seen the Times, or anyone else, explain how things would have been better if Bush had attacked Musharraf and tried to support his domestic opponents. In fact, if Bush had proposed regime change in Pakistan, he likely would have been greeted by calls for impeachment from the Times.
Whether the accession to power of Bhutto’s PPP, in a coalition with Sharif or others, will make things better for Pakistan, let alone the U.S., is hard to say. Bhutto’s faction has generally been regarded as more pro-Western than Musharraf’s. Perhaps the most optimistic aspect of the Pakistani election, beyond the fact that it happened, is that there was very little support for radical Islamic parties.
No matter who is President of Pakistan, the question of what to do about al Qaeda and other extremist groups will remain. Al Qaeda made repeated, but unsuccessful, attempts to murder President Musharraf. It succeeded in murdering Benazir Bhutto. One hopes that her party will be at least as committed to defeating the terrorists as was Musharraf.
UPDATE: The TImes got the hint, either from us or another site, or maybe from an editor. But aren’t editors supposed to read articles before they are published? Anyway, the Times story now reads:
The results were interpreted here as a repudiation of Mr. Musharraf as well as the Bush administration, which has staunchly backed Mr. Musharraf for more than six years as its best bet in the campaign against the Islamic militants in Pakistan.
Another sub silentio correction, courtesy of the blogosphere.
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