LAHORE, Pakistan -- In the rapidly unfolding crisis in Pakistan, no matter what happens to President Pervez Musharraf -- whether he survives politically or not -- he is a lame duck. He is unable to rein in Talibanization in Pakistan or guide the country toward a more democratic future.This column was written by Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, and the author of "Taliban" and "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia." Musharraf is dependent on the aid from the U.S. for military toys and support of the military. Both are teetering while fundamentalists are exploiting the vacuum left by Musharraf not having a popular base of support among the people.
Since March 9, when Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, public protests have escalated every day -- as has a violent crackdown by the police and intelligence agencies on the media and the nation's legal fraternity.
It is in the interest of the United States to support such an exit strategy [Musharraf voluntarily stepping down and holding elections]. The military can no longer counter the phenomenal growth of Islamic extremism in Pakistan through offensives alone. What the country needs is greater political consensus and a popularly elected government, and to replace the extortions of the mullahs with the return of day-to-day parliamentary politics. The army created a political vacuum in which extremism has thrived. Pakistan needs a return to civil society and government.
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