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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Exit Musharraf: A Score for Democracy.

The announcement by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that he would resign “for the sake of the nation” should be a lesson for African leaders who to cling to power despite ouster via the ballot box. Musharaf’s exit marks an important milestone in global democracy. The people will always prevail.

Earlier this month, Mauritania joined the long list of African countries whose failed leadership has led to coups. On 6th August, Mauritania’s General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz ousted democratically-elected president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and declared himself president. Abdel Aziz has since promised to hold elections “soon” and to fight corruption which he says was rampant in the previous regime.

Like the self declared Mauritanian president Abdel Aziz, Pervez Musharraf ascended to power by the gun. He forcefully seized power in 1999 and has ruled Pakistan ever since. He gained some form of international recognition after the 9/11 attack in the U.S. as a key ally in the fight against international terrorism.

Musharaf began to fall out of favor both at home and abroad in 2007 following complains by Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai of purported regrouping of Taliban forces in western Pakistani mountains where Osama Bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

Last December’s assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Ms. Benazir Bhutto reignited animosity against Musharaf by locals blaming him for not providing sufficient security. His party lost the elections that soon followed.

Like all global leaders, Musharaf made many unpopular decisions during his tenure. However, he chose to “put the people of Pakistan first.” In a televised address, he said that he was satisfied with whatever he had done for his country (including the military coup in 1999) and that he hoped justice would prevail following his resignation. “I put myself to the people of Pakistan to decide about my future and they will do justice,” he said.

Considering how he came to power, Musharaf could have chosen the African route by silencing any opposition and declaring a state of emergency. He chose to step down. Yes he may have caved into political pressure to resign, but he had other available options which he gracefully disregarded. He did not do a Mugabe or the recent happenings in Mauritania.

Everything he did as Pakistani president will determine his future as a civilian since he shed his military coat. The people of Pakistan wanted him out. He has obliged and so should other African leaders who have fallen out of favour with the electorate.

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