Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pakistan stability

Today's apparent suicide bombing that killed at least 37 people outside an opposition candidate's office today in northwest Pakistan demonstrates the risks of the inconsistent policies of embattled President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistani voters go to the polls Monday in a parliamentary election already marred by last month's assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, an opposition leader who just recently returned from exile. Musharraf, the ostensibly pro-Western former military commander who has taken more than $10 billion from the United States in the past 10 years to fight al-Qaida-linked terrorists in northwest Pakistan, recently reached an agreement with at least one prominent insurgent group in the largely ungoverned region. The U.S. government believes al-Qaida's leadership, including Osama bin Laden, are hiding in the region and have pushed since the Sept. 11 attacks, with obviously limited success, for Musharraf to capture them. Voters are expected to elect a parliament hostile to Musharraf, who left the army last year. The vote was originally scheduled for Jan. 9 but was postponed after Bhutto's assassination. Opposition parties, which include Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, have complained about expected vote rigging by Musharraf's party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q. Musharraf said today that Monday's vote would be fair and peaceful, according to the Reuters international news service.

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