According to the Post today, "The poll results are the latest in a series of troubling indicators for Musharraf. In recent months, he has suspended the constitution, fired many judges on the Supreme Court and engineered a legally dubious reelection in his quest to stay in power." Although the constitution has been restored, the president's repeated crackdowns against political opponents, the judiciary, and the mass media have further cut his support. Another widely covered poll, conducted by the U.S.-based Terror Free Tomorrow last month, found that the PPP, the party of the recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto, was the most popular just ahead of the February 18th elections. According to the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, the survey closely affirmed the numbers from the IRI poll, finding that 70 percent of Pakistanis wanted Musharraf to quit. Interestingly, TFT also found that sympathy for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban has dropped sharply. Dawn reported, "According to the poll results, only 24 percent of Pakistanis approved of Osama when the survey was conducted last month, compared with 46 percent during a similar survey in August. Backing for Al Qaeda fell to 18 per cent from 33 per cent."
According to the Post piece, "There are widespread fears in Pakistan that Musharraf and his allies will rig next Monday's vote." However, the IRI poll indicated that that could be a "perilous" step for the leader, especially since only 14 percent said they would back Musharraf's party, the PML-Q in the upcoming elections. Today, The News' editorial further discussed the issue of the elections, but noted, "Whoever wins the election and by whatever means, they face a daunting set of problems, none of which have been addressed in terms of policy or manifesto by any of the political parties." According to a report from the World Bank, "The water, power irrigation and transport sectors" in Pakistan are all "woefully deficient," and whoever comes into power must effectively address these issues. The bottom line of the editorial? "The World Bank has provided a checklist of uncomfortable truths backed up with solid evidence that would be a wake-up call for any politician anywhere, except Pakistan. Expect no action."
With the elections just a week away, there seems to a powerful sense that the next party in power will be a welcome change from Musharraf's regime. However, are we so focused on voting the current president out of power that we can't focus on what could occur after the elections? How will the next elected party handle the multitude of problems currently plaguing the country?
Breaking News: the Associated Press reported this morning that the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan was missing and "feared kidnapped" in the tribal border region