Regarding "A chameleon ally in Pakistan" (Feb. 5, Opinion): I appreciate that you published the view of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. The article projects a separate view from the mainstream and does wonders for the climate of political debate on Pakistan. But as a Pakistani who, for the first time, is seeing a bright future for my people, I must speak out in favor of President Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf was promoted to military rank based purely on his merit, and under his rule the current army is one of the most disciplined institutions in Pakistan. It is a great disservice to history to keep Gen. Zia ul Haq and Musharraf on the same plane. Musharraf has let art, entertainment, literature, and most of all the press, reign free. One cannot begin to explain the peace of mind the Pakistani of today has compared with Mr. Haq's regime.
Aisha Fayyazi Sarwari
My respect for Mrs. Bhutto has redoubled. Her great insight and democratic credentials make her a stateswoman that the troubled country of Pakistan needs dearly. The West is definitely turning a blind eye towards Musharraf because he has become a very convenient ally. This will backfire unless the democratically elected representatives are allowed to return to Pakistan and participate in a free and fair election.
There is no denying that Musharraf is a military ruler, and lacks support from any democratic institution. But democracy is not just defined by the process of the people casting a vote to elect the government of their choice. Accountability of public office holders, freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary, equal application of the law, and control of corruption of the political establishment are all of equal importance to democracy. Pakistan badly needs democracy, but it will be much better off without the likes of its former rulers. It is time for a new democratic leadership to emerge in Pakistan and the old liabilities to be ridden off.
San Mateo, Calif.
I agree with Mrs. Bhutto that fair elections are the essence of a successful political system in any country - including Pakistan. There should be fair elections in Pakistan and the Pakistan People's Party (without the influence of the Bhutto family) and the Pakistan Muslim League (without the influence of the Sharif family) should be allowed to participate along with all other parties that conduct elections within their own parties.
It is my hope that Musharraf is elected president for 5 to 10 years and that he is allowed the chance to achieve his goal of converting Pakistan into a economic powerhouse and a secular democratic country for Muslims.
Extremism and religious intolerance in Pakistan were not controlled during Bhutto's government (neither were they controlled by Sharif).
Sept. 11 has given Pakistan a second chance to become a civilized society, and Musharraf's policies are achieving this goal.
I agree that the democratic world must keep a close eye on Musharraf, but for Bhutto to place the blame of Pakistan's descent into fundamentalism on him is quite disingenuous.
It was the policies of another general and dictator, Zia ul Haq, which led the country down that path. The current holder of that title seems to be doing his best to reverse the damage already done.
Make no mistake about it, Musharraf is a dictator. But I would like to see Americans give him a chance.
Saif S. Chapra
Menlo Park, Calif.
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