Pakistan's ruling coalition wants to impeach President Musharraf. Thomas Bärthlein looks at a mixed bag of reactions from Pakistani and Indian newspapers.
A graceful exit for President Musharraf?
It is a historical event to begin with, as Dawn reminds us: "No Pakistani head of state has so far been impeached." But others remain sceptical, as the governing coalition has announced a lot and implemented little over the past months. The Daily Times comments: "The joint communiqué does not represent any breakthrough. The only new development is the seeming resolve of the coalition partners to try and oust President Musharraf before anything else."
Will impeachment succeed?
The Pakistani papers are divided in a similar way about the prospects of the impeachment bid. Whereas Dawn believes, "unless something out of the ordinary happens, President Pervez Musharraf’s political fate has been sealed", the Daily Times is more sceptical: "Is this the endgame for President Musharraf? There are many battles to be won by the coalition partners — the numbers game in parliament and constitutional skirmishes in the supreme court — before they can win this war against him. The game has just started. An impeachment looks problematic for many reasons. There are as many chances of his resigning as there are of impeachment failing."
Calling on Musharraf to resign
Pakistan's press is united in recommending a graceful exit to the president. The Nation writes: "There is a need for the President to realise that his unreasonable insistence to remain in office after the elections, which were widely interpreted as a referendum against him, has further brought down his popularity graph. As things stand, he is the most unpopular political figure in the country. He can save the country a lot of trouble by resigning voluntarily."
Dawnagrees: "The president should weigh his chances. There is no doubt he will fight back, but given the odds against him and the unity shown by his political opponents inside and outside parliament he would be well advised to decide to bow out gracefully."
This does not mean, however, that Musharraf's achievements have been forgotten. The News explains: "The sitting president sees no reason why he should leave the job, and viewed from his perspective this is entirely understandable. He would be of the view that he oversaw arguably the freest and fairest elections the country has ever seen and has done his bit for democracy. The citizenry and the politicians should be grateful for his efforts in their service these last eight years."
But in the end of its editorial, The News joins the other papers in asking Musharraf to quit: "It's time to go Mr President, and for the sake of all of us – please maintain your dignity and go quietly."
Little respect for politicians
Pakistan's political parties and their leaders have lost many sympathies during the past few months, due to their continuous infighting and poor performance in government. This assessment in The News is symptomatic:
"The politicians shouting for his ouster want him out so that they can tussle for his job – the altruism that apparently drives their efforts is as phoney as most things political in Pakistan; this is about power, who has it and who wields it."
Dawn points out that "since the Feb 18 elections, never once did the people get the feeling that their representatives were addressing the problems that afflict them." The editorial continues: "What the PPP and PML-N leaders should know is that President Musharraf’s removal from the scene will merely remove a perceived hindrance in the way of good governance. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the coalition partners have bothered so far to draw up a comprehensive development strategy focusing on long- and short-term goals. In the aftermath of yesterday’s announcement, the nation expects the governments in Islamabad and the four provinces to start ticking."
The Indian media look at several background aspects behind Thursday's developments. The Times of India maintains that the US government, which had supported Musharraf for long, is keeping its distance from the former general these days: "The Bush administration now seems ready to dump the man it long regarded as a bulwark in the war on terror, particularly after recent reports about the ISI's continued support for the Taliban and other terrorist elements in Pakistan. The ISI is currently headed by Nadeem Taj, a distant relative of Musharraf who the military ruler hand-picked to head the spy agency. The US has a long and rich history of dumping military dictators when their position becomes untenable."
The Indian Express advises us not to neglect the role of Pakistan's powerful army. Its editorial is called "Prussiastan", because the paper believes that "as in the old Prussian state, nothing will alter in Pakistan unless the military does."