Although full results are not yet in, Pakistani voters, as expected, have roundly repudiated President Pervez Musharraf, who took control of the country in a military coup in 1999 and whose popularity has been on a serious dive for about a year.
In parliamentary elections Monday, the party that supports him, Pakistan Muslim League-Q, was expected to hold only 20 to 30 seats in the 272-seat National Assembly. The leader of the party, the former speaker of the parliament and six ministers all lost their seats.
Meanwhile the Pakistan Peoples Party, headed by the husband of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was on course to win 110 seats, while the Pakistan Muslim League-M, headed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was forecast to hold about 100 seats.
It is a crushing defeat for a leader the United States supported strongly as a key factor in the global “war on terror.” However, because he engineered his election to another five-year term under the previous parliament, Musharraf will remain as president — unless, of course, he is impeached or otherwise forced from office.
At least the government didn’t seem to rig the election.
Musharraf’s story is a validation of the theory that political leaders are like unrefrigerated fish and house guests — after
a while they begin to stink.
He was popular for a while because he brought stability and was a bit less corrupt than most Pakistani politicians. But ineffectualness against the reconstituted Taliban and al-Qaida, looking like a U.S.
puppet and proclaiming martial law made him deeply unpopular.
With its usual diplomatic adroitness, the Bush administration supported Musharraf personally rather than Pakistan as a country right up to the bitter end. Now it will have to scramble to find Pakistani leaders to talk to.
But the nuclear weapons seem safe, and there was no post-election rioting.