President Pervez Musharraf made clear to American newspapers and TV that he will not back down in the fight which has erupted between himself and Pakistan political activists. He told the New York Times that opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, could not tell him to resign and classified activists as lazy people who don’t even bother to vote. He told an American TV interviewer that “When the nation is about to be declared a failed state, tell me whether the restoration of so-called democracy is important or efforts to save the country? Of course, it is important to save the country.” In other words, is democracy more important than survival of the nation of Pakistan? As he spoke, a 100 car caravan of Bhutto supporters took off from Lahore on the opening stages of a long march for freedom. Ms. Bhutto is still confined to house arrest and when supporters attempt to visit her, they are being arrested.
President Musharraf certainly raises a key issue — which comes first, democracy or survival of a nation? However, he fails to note present problems in Pakistan occurred on his watch as president so some responsibility for it being termed a “failed state” must rest on his shoulders. Ms. Bhutto, and other political opponents, are justifiably asking whether or not Pakistan can become a functioning state only after getting rid of Musharraf. Perhaps, the emerging grand alliance of political parties covering a spectrum of views may become the coalition which can institute reforms that make Pakistan a functioning nation. The current crisis undoubtedly raises new issues for President Bush regarding aims of American foreign policy in Pakistan and Asia.