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

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster