In the end, President Pervez Musharraf went with remarkably little strife. Pakistan’s top civilian and military leaders, who worked together to orchestrate his long-delayed resignation, must continue that responsible cooperation in the months ahead. Pakistan’s plight is far too desperate for any more destructive vendettas. The first challenge is to choose a new civilian president, free from any taint of corruption or complicity with past dictatorships. The presidency must also be stripped of the special dictatorial powers that Musharraf seized for himself.

Pakistan’s newly elected civilian leaders must also move quickly to challenge Taliban and Al Qaeda forces and the Pakistani intelligence and military officers who are in league with them. Wasteful military spending and political corruption has diverted millions of dollars that should have been invested in primary education, health care and agriculture.

For seven years, the Bush administration enabled Musharraf — believing that he was the best ally for the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He never delivered on that promise. And Pakistanis deeply resent Washington for propping up the dictator. With Musharraf finally out of the picture, it is time to focus US policy on his dangerous and dangerously neglected country.