President Pervez Musharraf’s usual eloquence deserted him in the terse address to the Pakistani people in which he announced his resignation. This brings to an end a face-off between him and the ruling coalition that had threatened to begin impeachment proceedings against him if he did not go on his own accord. As yet, there are no indications whether he will stay on in Pakistan or go away. With his resignation, one powerful factor in the army’s supremacy has gone. This is not to suggest that the army under Mr Musharraf’s handpicked successor General Ashfaq Kayani will go back to the barracks overnight. But his departure gives the ruling Pakistan People’s Party-Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) coalition the opportunity to set right many things that have contributed to the country being termed a failed State.
For one, it can begin to tackle the economy now crippled by 30 per cent inflation. Second, it can begin attempts to marginalise the fundamentalists in earnest. Both these are long and difficult propositions. But at least the government now has a fighting chance. The last few years have been dismal for Mr Musharraf. He had a failed run-in with the judiciary and his agreements with militant warlords in the fractious tribal regions fell through. But most humiliatingly for him, the Lal Masjid episode showed that the fundamentalists were able to cock a snook at him, eroding his claim that he was the best bet in the US-led fight against terror. The resurgence of the Taliban is proof, if any were needed, that Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence has been successfully carrying out its extremist agenda, irrespective of who is in power in Islamabad. The sorry part of this saga is that Mr Musharraf is leaving office, much diminished in stature from when he took over. He could make little headway in improving relations with India and presided over Pakistan’s economic and social decline.
The ruling coalition now has to put aside its considerable differences if it has to begin the task of rebuilding the country. Even though it is beset with its own problems at the moment, it is in India’s interest to lend a helping hand in this process of getting Pakistan back on its feet. Only this will eventually spell stability for this most volatile of regions.