A Rare Opportunity for the Bush Administration
A Rare Opportunity for the Bush Administration
Monday, November 5,2007 12:54
By Shadi Hamid

The Bush administration"s Pakistan policy has been pretty bad over the last few years (like with nearly everything else). However, today, the Bush administration, and particularly Condi Rice, has a rare opportunity to do the right thing, and put its muscle where its mouth is. It is unclear to what extent administration officials gave the go-ahead for Musharraf"s declaration of emergency rule. There was obviously some discussion with Musharraf of what his announcement would mean in practice, and, apparently, Musharraf assuaged some of their concerns by pledging to hold elections within the next two months. But, it appears Mush is backing away from this promise, with some in the ruling party, including PM Shaukat Aziz, saying that elections could be delayed as much as one year.

Time and time again, the Bush administration has said that democracy promotion is one of its top priorities and forms a central component of its policy toward the Muslim world. And, each time, it has disappointed us. The gap between rhetoric and policy has become unforgivably vast. No one believes a word the administration says anymore on this matter. But, today (yes - actually today), the administration"s true believers (are there any?) have a rare opportunity to make amends. And, in this, I would very much like to see them succeed.

According to today"s Guardian, "The US and Britain are today expected to demand that Pakistan"s president, Pervez Musharraf, honour pledges to hold elections in the next two months and step down as the army chief, or face a cut in western support." Yes, let us hope. The Bush administration has its chance to show the world that it can still do the right thing, even when everyone expects it to do the opposite. And, no, it"s not rocket science. This is what any talks with dictators, including our friend Musharraf, should entail. If you insist on ending the little that was left of Pakistani democracy, then there will be unmistakable consequences. In no uncertain terms, the Bush administration must make this clear. If you would like to continue enjoying our financial, military, and political support, then you must respect the rules of the democratic game. No ifs, ands, and buts. Maybe Condi, professed lover of democracy, will really, finally, shed her realist past and show us that her rhetoric is more than just that.