Here is today’s leader from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Editorial: A Pakistan test
Thursday, June 14, 2007
HOW INDISPENSABLE is Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf? For years he has sold Washington on the threat that without him Pakistan would descend into an Iran-style Islamic theocracy, exporting trouble and waving nuclear weaponry.
But it may be time to call his bluff. Never a friend of civil law, he has overstepped himself by firing the country's chief justice and briefly yanking press freedom for broadcast media. He's also planning for a fall vote by a lame-duck parliament on another five-year term as president while keeping his uniform as head of the military. In plain terms, his public image has taken a huge beating.
The Bush administration, of course, won't publicly disparage an ally who has collected some $10 billion in U.S. aid. Pakistan lies next door to Afghanistan, and Musharraf maintains he has done all he can to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists, who are dug in along the two-country border. Pakistan has never been a steady democracy, and Musharraf is a known quantity, hard-nosed strategists argue.
His appeal, however, is growing stale. And the proof is largely of his creation. By firing the nation's top judge, he inflamed protests that brought thousands of lawyers, business groups and political organizations into the streets. The press crackdown had the same effect: pro-democracy groups were galvanized, not the Islamic fundamentalists he has cited as trouble. At one rally last month, violence erupted between pro- and anti-Musharraf groups, leaving 48 dead.
His rule may bend, or break, soon. He's negotiating with former leader Benazir Bhutto to allow her return from exile and to possibly share power as prime minister. That could be an improvement, though it would leave Pakistan's all-powerful military in the picture, with Musharraf as its top general.
An opportunity is at hand to dilute his autocratic control. Washington should shoulder him hard in the direction of democracy and civil law. Such a change won't happen overnight, but Musharraf's weakened position is a chance that can't be missed.
US Foreign Policy
San Francisco Chronicle