Musharraf steps down | india | Hindustan Times
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Musharraf steps down

india Updated: Aug 18, 2008 20:57 IST
Amit Baruah

He could have gone in February. But Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf chose to hang on to power. In the end, his departure from office on Monday was a forced one; an exit bereft of dignity.

In November last year, Musharraf had to quit as Army chief after a prolonged public agitation against his decision to “suspend” Chief Justice Ifthekar Chaudhry. He had to shed his “second skin”.

There’s little doubt that the former General’s departure will be good for Pakistan. As Musharraf himself put it in his speech on Monday, he was being seen as part of the problem rather than the solution in Pakistan.

Since the March 2007 suspension of Chaudhry, the country has been in turmoil. There’s been little by way of governance even after the civilian government took office after the February 18 elections this year.

Now, with Musharraf gone, Pakistan can hopefully get down to dealing with the myriad issues the country faces. Beginning with the security challenges. The ever-growing threat of militant Islamist takeover looms large over Pakistan, something underlined daily by the daily violence in the country.

Pakistan needs to move fast to correct a growing impression that militant mullahs have take over large swathes of its territory, especially in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

It also needs to move fast to rein in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, which India, Afghanistan and many Western countries believe continues to aid and assist jehadi elements in the country.

Massive inflation and food shortages must be tackled if the civilian government is to carry credibility with the people, who voted the Pakistan Peoples Party-Pakistan Muslim League (N) combine in with high hopes.

With over a thousand serving and retired faujis holding civilian jobs, Musharraf and the military undermined already weak civilian institutions. Though the new Army Chief Ashaq Pervez Kayani has withdrawn such people from civilian jobs, the new government must actually build democratic institutions.

Ironically, with Musharraf gone, the Pakistani coalition has lost its uniting factor. The PPP and PML (N), usually on opposite sides of the political divide, face the acid test of keeping their political alliance going.

Are they up to it? Or will Pakistan face another round of elections in the not-so-distant future? These are open questions.