November 7, 2007

Bush Pushes Musharraf On Elections

George Bush told the media today that he gave Pervez Musharraf some friendly but firm advice -- settle on one career, and do it fast. Bush told Musharraf that he had to resign as army chief of staff and stay on schedule for parliamentary elections, but he did not say whether he insisted on restoring the judiciary and legal communities in Pakistan. So far, Congress does not appear impressed:

President Bush told Pakistan's president on Wednesday that he must hold parliamentary elections and step down as army leader.

"You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time," Bush said, describing a telephone call with Gen. Pervez Musharraf. "I had a very frank discussion with him."

Bush revealed the call to Musharraf during an appearance with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, at George Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Va.

Sarkozy issued a statement supporting Bush's advice. The Pakistanis seemed less impressed. A staffer at the new Supreme Court told the AP that friends give advice, not dictation. Still, the Pakistanis could hardly be surprised to get that kind of reaction from the White House, given Bush's political situation here after years of supporting Musharraf.

Speaking of which, Congress chimed in right on cue. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who heads the subcommittee on the Middle East for the Foreign Relations Committee, says our policy towards Pakistan should not be "faith based". It's a cute line, but perhaps Ackerman would prefer to deal with the "faith-based communities" in Waziristan and the Northwest Frontier Province who would have their hands on the nuclear button if Musharraf lost power at the moment.

We don't have a lot of options at the moment, and all of them look worse than the others. We can't allow the nuclear weapons in Pakistan to fall into the hands of the radical Islamists, and so we have to support Musharraf at the moment. We have to hope he knows what he's doing, and we have to press him to keep the country stable and allow for self-governance rather than military dictatorship. Bush so far has handled the crisis in the only manner open to him, which is to wait and see whether Musharraf can keep the country from disintegrating into chaos.


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