Leading Article: A departing president and an unstable nation

The challenges facing post-Musharraf Pakistan are formidable

Share
Related Topics

Despite the drama surrounding Pervez Musharraf's lengthy resignation address yesterday, there was nothing particularly surprising about the Pakistani President's departure. The truth is that Mr Musharraf was doomed the moment his political base was wiped out in February's parliamentary elections. The former general's support in the country dried up some time ago, and the new coalition government was determined to use the impeachment process to get rid of him. This was a beleaguered politician bowing to the inevitable.

What has defined Mr Musharraf's rule more than anything else has been his relations with the West since the terror attacks of 11 September 2001. He presented himself as the world's sheriff in a volatile region, a stance that won him billions of dollars in US military aid. But doubts about the soundness of this investment have been creeping in over the years. Despite some early success in capturing some high-level al-Qa'ida operatives, President Musharraf has been unable to secure Pakistan's western border.

If Mr Musharraf's counter-terrorism achievements have been a disappointment to his Western sponsors, his record as a democrat has simply been an embarrassment. After deposing a corrupt civilian government in a military coup in 1999, Mr Musharraf promised to restore democracy as soon as practically possible. Yet, despite shedding his army uniform last year, Mr Musharraf has done nothing to strengthen the rule of law. By sacking the Chief Justice and imposing a state of emergency last year, he finally gave up all pretence of being a democrat.

The challenges facing the civilian government in the post-Musharraf era are immense. Perhaps the most daunting will be bringing Pakistan's powerful intelligence services, the ISI, under political control. Rumours of secret co-operation between some in the ISI and the Taliban refuse to go away.

The second great security challenge is India. Relations with Pakistan's nuclear-armed eastern neighbour were actually quite good under Mr Musharraf, in large part because the President held Pakistan's army under tight control. But many question the ability of a civilian administration to exert the same level of influence over the generals. Almost as formidable as these challenges is the need to fix Pakistan's economy. Annual inflation is running at 28 per cent and high food prices are stoking popular discontent.

It is hard to be optimistic. The two parties of the coalition, the Pakistan People's Party and the Muslim League, both have a dreadful record of corruption and incompetence in office. And the one thing that has united them in recent months has been the determination to get rid of President Musharraf. It is hard to see what will hold them together now that he has departed.

If there is hope, it lies in Pakistan's increasingly assertive middle class and its outspoken press, both of which will demand honest and efficient government. It is also worth remembering that, despite the extreme image of Pakistan often projected to the outside world, the vast majority of Pakistanis do not favour fundamentalist religious parties. If Pakistan's political leaders can find it within themselves to govern wisely, the materials are there to turn the country round.

It is hard to overstate the geo-political significance of Pakistan, this nuclear power situated in one of the most unstable regions on earth. We need to pray that President Musharraf's successors will do a better job of steering the country away from the abyss.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
Jeremy Corbyn addresses over a thousand supporters at Middlesbrough Town Hall on August 18, 2015  

Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be

Mark Steel
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future