06 October 2007

Is Pakistan Really Democratic?

If you are lucky enough to see any real news today (i.e. anything besides Gordon Brown's decision not to give us a general election), you might chance upon report from Pakistan that President Pervez Musharraf has won a controversial presidential vote — controversial because the country's Supreme Court has yet to decide whether the General was able to stand while still serving as the head of the army.

Although Musharraf has again given an "offer of reconciliation to all political parties," Pakistani Christians are now saying that the election commission rejected the nomination of their presidential candidate, Joseph Francis, the leader of the Pakistan Christian National Party, citing article 42 Pakistan's constitution, which bars non-Muslim candidates from running for president. At a time of heightened religious tensions, with violent attacks against churches and some Christians being threatened to convert to Islam, if the president is serious about wanting to create stability in the country and "to eliminate terrorists and eradicate extremism," he will need to work not just with his political rivals but also with the country's religious minorities. Given that Musharraf is one of the West's strongest regional allies in the New Great Game (aka what used to be called the "fight against terrorism"), one can but hope that quiet diplomatic pressure will be exerted to persuade the one-time coupe leader to include all Pakistani citizens in his "National Reconciliation Plan."