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Ahmed Rashid: Political Crisis in Pakistan

Apr 5, 2007 (Fresh Air)

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Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf faces protests at home — and given his stance on the Taliban, eroding support in the West as well. Journalist and author Ahmed Rashid parses the challenges and possibilities of contemporary Pakistani politics.

The Bush administration sees Musharraf as a major ally in the war on terrorism. He came to power in a 1999 coup; his 5-year term as president is up this year, and with protest movements emerging both in the Pakistani middle-class and among Islamist extremists, it's far from clear how he'll proceed.

Rashid, author of the best-selling Taliban and Jihad, argues that Musharraf has misjudged his country's mood, that Pakistan's middle-class is ready for a move back toward democracy and that they're ready for Musharraf to step down.

A violent government crackdown on public protest, Rashid says, has only unified the opposition, and "anything he does now to keep himself in power ... is going to lead to more protests and more aggravation on the streets."

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