Musharraf running out of options: Pakistani media

Islamabad (IANS) : The Pakistani media Wednesday continued to hammer away for the fourth successive day at President Pervez Musharraf for imposing an emergency, saying he was running out of options and should heed international advice to quickly restore democracy in the country.

“What then are his options?” The News wondered in an editorial, adding that the answer lay in Musharraf shedding his army chief’s uniform, supervising free and fair elections and then handing over power in a civilised and democratic manner to genuinely elected representatives.

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“That is probably the only way he can find a safe and dignified exit from the present mess and one that has any hope of redeeming him and reversing what he has done. The alternative is a long and dark winter of turmoil, anarchy and discontent which Pakistanis and their nation can ill afford,” The News maintained.

“In one sentence, General Musharraf must fully restore Pakistan’s image as a democratic and peace-loving country that has taken a big hit” because of Saturday’s emergency proclamation “and the subsequent actions taken by state functionaries under his orders”, Daily Times contended.

“We say this not just because this is the only way out of the cul de sac into which General Musharraf has led the country and himself but also because any further steps down the present path will only make it more difficult to extricate himself from the crisis,” it added.

According to the newspaper, “the worst in this episode is too obvious even for the dim-witted”.

“General Musharraf has never tired of proclaiming that he has the best interest of this country at heart and wants Pakistan to stand tall in the comity of nations as a modern, progressive nation.

“That being so, the irony of what he has done to promote this agenda, about whose (lack of) propriety and desirability there can be no doubt, should not be lost on anyone,” Daily Times said.

According to Dawn, the international outrage against the emergency pointed to a change of heart against the support for Musharraf in western capitals, especially Washington.

“The concern shown by western leaders is understandably based on their fear of a new wave of anti-West sentiment sweeping Pakistan. This will not help fight Islamist militants who have vowed jihad on the West and nothing less on Pakistan,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“What’s bothering the western governments about the emergency rule is largely the same as has had civil society at home up in protest.

“The crackdown on rights activists, suspension of civil liberties and an independent judiciary and attempts at gagging the media are the salient features of the autocratic rule under the Provisional Constitution Order,” Dawn said.

At the same time, “all may not be lost just yet if Gen Musharraf heeds the counsel of his foreign friends” to lift the emergency, halt the crackdown on civil society, withdraw media curbs, install an impartial caretaker government and hold free and fair elections.

“If he listens to civil society back home, which is his partner in putting ‘Pakistan first’, he should also restore the independence of the judiciary,” Dawn argued.