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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Kinapse: Consultant, Advisory Services, Kinapse Ltd

from £35,000 pa: Kinapse: You will take leadership for discrete workstreams an...

Recruitment Genius: Electrical Engineer / Panel Wireperson

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time position for Nottingh...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Customer Service Advisor

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...

Recruitment Genius: Sports Simulator / Home Cinema Installation Technician

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Simulation Tec...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Greeks can stay in the euro or end ‘austerity’, but not both

John Rentoul
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Sean O'Grady
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue