Musharraf Steps Down

Today’s big news is that Pakistan’s president-slash-dictator Pervez Musharraf is going to resign. The whole issue has gotten a bit obscured by the Olympics, the campaign, and Russia-Georgia but to recap the last time Pakistan was in the headlines they held parliamentary elections that Musharraf’s allies badly lost, leaving the legislature in the hands of a civilian coalition. More recently, they moved to impeach Musharraf. And today he’s announcing that rather than fight the charges, he’ll bow to pressure and resign for the good of the country.

In a proximate sense, this seems unambiguously good — Musharraf is right to think that fighting the impeachment drive would be a disaster for Pakistan. And in a long-term sense, it would serve the United States well to shift from too much of a reliance on a relationship with Musharraf specifically to a broader engagement with Pakistani society. In the medium-term, however, what I’m hearing from people is that the problem now is that the governing coalition will have to actually do something. Thus far, their post-election agenda has mainly been focused on sidelining Musharraf and moving back to full civilian rule. That’s understandable, but during this period long-festering problems with the economy and in the frontier regions have deteriorated. The focus on Musharraf was, among other things, a way to avoid taking full responsibility for dealing with Pakistan’s considerable problems.