Monday, 10 September 2007

Musharraf's idea of a warm welcome?

A not-so-inviting homecoming
According to his PML-N party, the Pakistani government detained thousands of supporters of exiled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif just before he began the voyage home to his country. Sharif arrived as expected today, only to be deported to Saudi Arabia, as had been feared, despite the Supreme Court ruling that he may return. The EU says the court's decision should be respected; the US government has pussyfooted the issue, as it often does on matters pertaining to Pakistan and democracy.

General disarray
Pakistani politics are explosive right now — literally. Violence and threats by extremists have been on the rise as the nation's embattled military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is challenged for power. Could the man he kicked out in a 1999 coup be his next challenger? Assuming they aren't rigged or delayed again, elections should be coming soon to Pakistan. There have already been rumors that Musharraf is in political talks with also-exiled ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, leader of the opposition PPP party.

So why is Sharif returning to the nation whose government threatened to kill, imprison, or deport him last time he overstayed his welcome (in their eyes)? Last month, the Supreme Court ordered that Sharif could return, only a month after Musharraf reinstated the popular and judicial Chief Justice Chaudhry of the court whom he had removed in March because he was one person of power who would actually challenge Musharraf and attempt to put him in check.

If you take away the center, only the extremes are left
I'm hoping that Musharraf will give democracy a chance — 'ally' America has been fairly lax on the pressure — and that political freedom will triumph over both military authoritarianism and Islamic extremism. Musharraf's oppression of liberals and moderates has allowed the militants to rise to the top; a political vacuum has been created in Pakistan in which the extremes grow as the moderates sink. In some cases he has had to appease the extremists, but almost never the moderates.

I agree with Benazir Bhutto in that moderate forces have been driven out and extremists have take hold of a country on the verge of total disarray.

Upcoming dates:

14 Sept: Date Ex-PM Benazir Bhutto will announce details of her homecoming
15 Sep-15 Oct: Timeframe Gen Musharraf has set for his re-election as president by parliament
October: Parliament expires and general election must be held

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