Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Interim Pakistani Parliamentary Election Results: Good News for Pakistan

The interim Pakistani parliamentary election results appear to be good news for Pakistan for several reasons:

First, the parties of Sharif and Bhutto each are doing very well, which may tend to minimize hubris and maximize inter-party cooperation. Given the sad historical performance of Pakistani civilian parties, that still does not guarantee strong support for civil rights, pragmatic economic policies, moderate foreign policy, or democracy, but it may at least open the door to such reforms, as is suggested by the calls for a coalition government from the leaders of both parties.

Second, the two leading pro-democracy opposition parties each appears far ahead of the party of the military dictatorship, despite the windowdressing of Musharraf's engineered self-election as president in civilian garb. There is no guarantee that such a coalition will be able to resist the combination of Pakistani military pressure to restrict democracy and foreign pressures to put foreign interests first, but again, it opens the door to such an outcome.

Now, can the strengthened Pakistani middle free the judiciary, persuade professionals in the army to return the troops to the barracks, and resist the pressures of both domestic and international extremists long enough to put together a national political compromise that persuasively addresses the cultural/civil rights concerns of disaffected minorities and offers the poor some economic hope?

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