Partnerless in Pakistan

New York -- President George W. Bush rightly called Pakistan’s recent national and provincial elections “a victory for [its] people.” But, even as he uttered those words, his administration was working behind the scenes to subvert the will of Pakistan’s people by trying to dictate the composition of their next coalition government and prop up the election’s biggest loser, President Pervez Musharraf. Bush is playing a dangerous game, risking the collapse of Pakistan’s political process for the sake of his own legacy.

Millions of Pakistanis delivered a clear message at the polls. Collectively, they voted against Musharraf and religious extremists, and in favor of democracy, the rule of law, and good governance.

Nationally, no single party received a majority, but the centrist, democratic opposition won more than 70% of the National Assembly seats. The Musharraf-allied faction of the Muslim League party (PML-Q) came in third, polling only 15%, despite the assistance of surgical vote-rigging. Most of its senior leaders were defeated in their constituencies – including one who hadn’t lost an election in 26 years. The PML-Q, created in 1999 by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, is now political deadwood.

An alliance between the two largest parties, the late Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League faction (PML-N) is what the country needs and what most Pakistanis want. The PPP and PML-N have the numbers to form a unity government. They also realize that this is perhaps their last chance to “save” Pakistan.