Pakistan: moment of truth?

Rumors have been circulating for weeks about contacts between the military regime of President Musharrif and the democratic party of exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the inference being that a compromise to restore Pakistan’s democracy is in the works. Given the conciliatory tone of the following piece, where only acrimony and bitterness had existed between the sides before, there may be something to the whispers. Benazir Bhutto writes in the LA Times:

In a democratic Pakistan, extremist movements have been minimal. In all democratic elections, extremist religious parties never have garnered more than 11% of the vote. But under dictators — most notably Gen. Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, but unfortunately also Gen. Pervez Musharraf during this decade — religious extremism has gained a foothold in my homeland.

Whether leaders like Zia exploited religion for their own political ends, or dictatorships inherently induce deprivation and desperation, the fact remains that extremism has emerged as a threat to my nation, to the region and to the world. These extremists are the petri dish of international terrorism. It need not be so. It must be reversed. And it can be done.

In both of my tenures as prime minister, my government imposed the rule of law on all areas of Pakistan — our four provinces and also the federally administered tribal areas, including Waziristan. With the support of the people of those tribal areas, we managed to uproot an international drug cartel that had operated with impunity under dictatorship.

Today, however, the international drug barons have morphed into religious extremists and terrorists. The current government of Pakistan has ceded large areas of our nation to the pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, claiming that these areas are ungovernable. I believe that they are governable and that a democratic government can better restore the authority of the state.

Read it all at the link above. Bhutto was twice elected Prime Minister; a woman leading a predominantly Islamic country! There may be hope for Pakistan yet . . .

Especially since the Telegraph is now reporting:

Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, has agreed to drop corruption charges against Benazir Bhutto to allow her to return to Islamabad as part of a power-sharing deal, the former prime minister has claimed.

Ms Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party who lives in self-imposed exile in London, and Gen Musharraf, who is beset by challenges to his eight-year rule, are near to a deal that would pave the way for the general to be re-elected as president and Ms Bhutto to return to contest parliamentary elections.

The whole story is at the preceding link. Good news, indeed!

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