Pakistan Elections: Nicholas Schmidle
Musharraf Powerless, Islamists DefeatedWhat happened in the Pakistani elections?
By Nicholas Schmidle
Heading into Monday's parliamentary elections, Pakistan desperately needed good news. Bombs, protests, and President Pervez Musharraf's authoritarian impulses have made almost daily headlines and created the impression of a country spiraling toward chaos. Last year, Islamic militants detonated, on average, one suicide bomb per week in Pakistan, including the attack that killed more than 140 people at Benazir Bhutto's homecoming in October and the one that assassinated her in December. As the pro-Taliban insurgency gathered strength this winter, a bloody Election Day seemed inevitable. But Monday's poll results, while consistent with Pakistan's recent history in their pure unpredictability, finally gave people a taste of good news. Besides being largely free of violence (two dozen died in isolated skirmishes, but suicide bombers stayed away), voters rejected the two players in Pakistani politics that scare—and confuse—Americans most: Musharraf and the Islamists.