Pakistan 's Moment of Truth: Sharif and Bhutto Must Say No the January Elections U.S. - Iran Peace Project -
EDITORIAL December 3, 2007

When Benazir, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) meet on December 3, their decision to participate in or boycott the January 8 parliamentary elections will impact the future of Pakistan for decades to come.

It is a strange irony that Bhutto and Sharif, two former prime ministers that both failed to put Pakistan on a clear path to progress can now save Pakistan by denying themselves what they covet most-political power for themselves and their parties.

For the greater good of Pakistan they must boycott Musharraf's January 8 elections and dispel illusions of the grandeur of a false democracy. Bhutto and Sharif must shoulder the responsibility of true leadership by uniting the majority of opposition parties to demand the return of the legitimate Supreme Court and new elections in the early spring.

If Bhutto, Sharif, the opposition parties and the Pakistani people have learned anything from the nation's failed experiments with democracy in the 1990's, it is that civil society must lead the military. Pervez Musharraf by virtue of his actions cannot be trusted. Nor will Pakistan 's salvation be realized by entering a Faustian bargain with the United States, Russia or China who all seek to subvert Pakistan 's independence for their own geo-strategic interests.

Today, Pakistan is a nuclear failed state held together by a brutal and declining military dictatorship. Complicated by competing loyalties within its military and intelligence agencies to extremist forces, and torn by tension between its volatile Baloch, Kashmir and Pashtun communities, Pakistan has somehow managed to stumble to the doorstep of democracy. But the only way for Pakistan to emerge from this unique moment of challenge is for opposition party leaders to reject the crumbs of false democracy from Musharraf's table. 

Pakistan's advancement requires a resolute and unified demand for true empowerment of the Pakistani majority. As difficult as it may be for opposition forces to find unity in the din of national turmoil, an unprecedented opportunity now exists for Pakistan to create its own special democratic enterprise.

The ability of Musharraf and the military to maintain their despotic rule rest on two pillars; naked force and a divided opposition. History has proved that even the most barbaric regimes cannot maintain power once the people decide they are no longer willing to endure oppression. Musharraf has all but exhausted the limits of naked brutality with emergency rule and the bloody suppression of pro-democracy forces. On the other hand, the opposition has the power to overcome its divisions and thus avoid furnishing the means of  its  own political destruction.

It is doubtful that Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif will rise to the historic moment at hand. Their past history of selfish power grabbing at the expense of the Pakistanti people does not inspire confidence that Pakistan will move beyond the limitations of the past. Therefore, all opposition parties and leaders committed to boycotting the January elections must do everything possible to pressure Bhutto and Sharif not to capitulate to Musharraf and the military. The Musharraf regime is weak and deteriorating in Pakistan and in the eyes of the international community. The hour of truth has arrived in Pakistan. We trust that the Pakistani people will seize the moment, preferably with the support of Bhutto and Sharif, but without them if necessary. 

Webster Brooks 111 is the Editor of the US-Iran Peace Project's website:   His articles have been published in newspapers, websites and blogs across the Middle East and in the United States.  US.-Iran Peace advocates the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran .