Pakistan’s Musharraf should step down
Opposition parties won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections in Pakistan.
Pakistani voters made known their frustration with President Pervez Musharraf in Monday's parliamentary elections, but political conflicts could remain if he tries to hang onto his post. He should step aside and allow the two winning parties to form a new government.
While the elections were a humiliating defeat for an American lackey, the United States should find the results encouraging. Islamic religious parties in the North West Frontier Province, abutting tribal sanctuaries for the Taliban and al-Qaida, were rejected in favor of secular parties in its local assembly. The pro-Taliban party won only three seats in the 272-seat national parliament, compared to 45 in 2002 elections.
For the time being, Musharraf remains president, the constitutional head of state. The parties of assassinated ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif accounted for 144 seats. That is short of the two-thirds needed to impeach Musharraf, but those two parties could join with several small parties to reach the threshold.
Musharraf has the power to dissolve parliament, but even he is not that brazen. Indeed, he said on state-run Pakistani Television, "Everyone should accept the results. That includes myself."
The new parliament will select a new prime minister, whose job is to run the government on a day-to-day basis, and Musharraf says he wants to work with the new government. Sharif has called for Musharraf's resignation, but Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari avoided saying whether he should remain in power.
Importantly, Musharraf no longer controls the army, although nominally commander in chief. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the new chief of the army, is reputed to be a rational man who understands the proper role of the military.
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