Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Musharraf's days could be numbered

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf suffered a crushing defeat in yesterday's parliamentary elections, winning only 15 percent of the vote. The party of slain candidate Benazir Bhutto won the largest share, taking 33.6 percent of the vote, while the party of former PM Nawaz Sharif (who Musharraf ousted in a coup in 1999) took almost 26 percent. The two parties are now talking about forming a coalition government.

All this means that Musharraf is on pretty thin ice. Last year he stepped down as head of the military, when you combine that with the loss of popular support he suffered in the election, it seems like few people are standing behind Musharraf.

An even more interesting result from the election though came from Pakistan's frontier region. These are the tribal areas where support for Muslim extremists and Osama bin Laden are said to be high, yet in the election religious parties representing the area were soundly beaten by secular ones. Musharraf in the past has used the threat of Islamic extremism to bolster Western support for his regime. But could the election results from the frontier region be an indication that Muslim extremists are really a smaller part of Pakistan's population than Musharraf would like us to believe?
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