March 09, 2008

Democracy or Musharraf?

With today's announcement that the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N will seek to reinstate the Pakistani Supreme Court and its Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the contest for democracy in Pakistan enters a crucial stage. Beyond reinstating the court, the two parties will seek to undo a Constitutional amendment that allows the President to suspend Parliament. They will also pass a bill which will undo all rulings of the puppet Supreme Court established by Pervez Musharraf three months ago.

The announcement establishes an all but certain confrontation with Musharraf. The result of these moves if allowed to go forward would almost certainly be the invalidation of his election as President.

Musharraf has already indicated that he has no intention to go quiet into this good night.

To date, the US has backed Musharraf due to his tepid support of the War on Terrorism. As recently as this week, US representatives indicated to the leader of the lawyers' movement that they would prefer a compromise in which Chaudhry was not restored.

It is time to stop backing the wrong horse.

First, it is not entirely clear that with Musharraf's resignation as Army Chief that he will still receive the backing of the Army if he wishes to continue in power. Second, Pakistanis indicated at the ballot box that they have almost no tolerance for extremists.

Is continued support for an increasingly marginalized dictator the best we can do in response to an electoral uprising in the World's sixth-largest state against dictatorship and radicalized Islam?