Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sharif Exceeds Expectations

I wondered if Sharif was putting on a show when he asked Bhutto to boycott the elections weeks ago upon his arrival. If they are both on the scene, only one is necessary to give elections enough legitimacy to sustain Musharraf's rule and for one to participate without the other would give the participant a big relative advantage.

Sharif's return to Pakistan, obviously with the consent of Musharraf, indicated to me that a deal had been reached, and that deal would have had Sharif limit his steps to reduce Musharraf's legitimacy in exchange for being allowed back. I still believe Sharif could not have returned without an understanding. Musharraf otherwise could have refused to allow Sharif's plane to land, as Sharif once tried against Musharraf.

But on the day of Bhutto's death, Sharif calls for a boycott of elections and for Musharraf to step down. It was not a dance. Sharif really hoped both sides would boycott and now is free to boycott the elections himself.

Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif announced here Thursday that his party will boycott the scheduled Jan. 8 parliamentary elections after opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in Thursday's suicide attack.

Of course the US opposes both a boycott and the removal of Musharraf from power.

The United States, in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, is urging all moderate Pakistani political forces including the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take part in the country's planned elections.

In terms of democracy, rule of law and effective governance advancing Pakistan's view of Pakistani interests, Sharif's recent behavior the best news to come from Pakistan since Musharraf took power.

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