Pak mess:

By imposing martial law, General Pervez Musharraf has pushed nuclear-armed Pakistan further along a perilous course and underscored the failure of President Bush’s policy toward a key ally in the war on terrorism.

The events should not have come as a surprise to administration officials. This is what you get when policy is centred slavishly on a single, autocratic ruler rather than more broadly on his country.

Returning Pakistan to civilian government has been a declared goal of the United States since Musharraf seized power in 1999 in a bloodless military coup. Most of the time, Bush, who says he cannot win the anti-terrorism war without Musharraf but clearly can’t win it with him either, acquiesced in his misdeeds. The US should at least condition that money on Pakistan’s performance in the anti-terrorism fight, on some form of accountability and on shifting more of it toward building political parties, courts and schools.

Ultimately, democracy is the best hope for a stable Pakistan. Reviving Musharraf’s backroom deal with the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, however distasteful, may be a way back from the abyss if it includes a real commitment to elections by the general, if Bhutto insists that the elections be open to all parties and if Bush gives her strong backing. — The International Herald Tribune