Friday, January 4, 2008

Pakistan: Restore Democracy

The International Crisis Group Crisis Group Press Briefing
After Bhutto's Murder: A Way Forward for Pakistan

Islamabad/Brussels, 2 January 2008: If Pakistan is to be stable in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s murder, President Pervez Musharraf must resign and a quick transition follow to a democratically elected civilian government.

After Bhutto’s Murder: A Way Forward for Pakistan*, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, concludes that Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, is no longer, if he ever was, a factor for stability. Particularly the U.S. must recognise he is a serious liability, seen as complicit in the death of the popular politician. Unless he steps down, tensions will worsen and the international community could face the nightmare of a nuclear-armed, Muslim country descending into civil war from which extremists would stand to gain.

“Bhutto’s death has drawn the battle lines even more clearly between Musharraf’s military-backed regime and Pakistan’s moderate majority, which will settle for nothing less than genuine parliamentary democracy”, saysMark Schneider, Crisis Group's Senior Vice-President.

Crisis Group agrees with the Election Commission decision to postpone the parliamentary election scheduled for 8 January to 18 February – but only if additional steps are taken so that the delay contributes to the creation of conditions for free and fair elections and the restoration of democracy.These include, in addition to Musharraf’s resignation: appointment, in consultation with the political parties, of caretaker governments at federal and provincial levels; full restoration of the constitution; and restoration of judicial independence, including reappointment of the judges Musharraf dismissed because they would not do his bidding in November when he declared martial law.

The international community should also support an independent, fixed-deadline investigation into Bhutto’s murder.“It is time to recognise that democracy, not an artificially propped-up, defrocked, widely despised general – has the best chance to provide stability and turn back extremists’ gains”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director.

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