Saturday, September 6, 2008

Zardari Wins Pakistan's Presidency

Unsurpisingly, Asif Ali Zardari is the new President of Pakistan. The widower of Benzair Bhutto won the support of Pakistan's National Assembly and several provincial chambers which are controlled by the Pakistan People's Party.

It appears Zardari will be more cooperative with the U.S. than Musharraf. Earlier this week U.S. commandos raided Taliban strongholds in South Warizistan earlier this week. Islamic fundamentalists see it as an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty. But Musharraf turned over South Warizistan to the Taliban. Just gave it up. Pakistan needs to take it back but will need help. This will, of course, anger Islamic fundamentalists but to quote Sarah Palin he is not seeking their good opinion.

Yesterday, several of the judges sacked by Musharraf last fall were reinstated. But Nawaz Sharif and the lawyers movement will not be mollified until Iftkhar Muhammad Chaudhry is restored as Chief Justice. However, Zardari is reluctant to reinstate Chaudhry for fear he will reinstate corruption charges against him despites assurances by Chaudhry he will do no such thing.

Don't expect Zardari to press for criminal charges against Musharraf. Although Musharraf was contemptuous of Bhutto after her assassination he was instrumental in waiving corruption charges against Zardari. Prosecution of Musharraf is another key demand by Sharif.

It will be interesting to see if Zardari keeps his pledge to reduce Presidential powers now that he holds the office. The President can currently dissolve the National Assembly at his whim. I don't expect Zardari to relinquish any power. But if he did it would go a long way in reducing the fragility of Pakistani democracy.

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