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Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 17:50 GMT
Analysis: Waiting for democracy
General Musharraf
General Musharraf: In no hurry to return to civilian rule
By South Asia analyst Solmaz Dabiri

Since he took over in October, General Musharraf has been evasive about setting a date for a process which would lead to the handing of power over to a democratically-elected government.

Pakistan in crisis
In fact, he has given little indication of being in any hurry.

He has said that Pakistan's political system is inherently corrupt, and that it would take years to put the country back on a correct economic and political track.

Although the local elections announcement was expected for some time, the timing of it is seen as partly aimed at President Clinton, who nearly struck Pakistan off his South Asia itinerary.


Pakistan tanks
The army takeover was condemned around the world
It is not clear whether or not the last-minute inclusion of Islamabad in the US President's tour of South Asia had anything to do with today's announcement - which falls far short of what Washington has been pressing for.

Mr Clinton's main hosts in India, as well as some of his aides were against such a visit, which they argued would be interpreted as the recognition of the military regime in Islamabad.

In the weeks and days prior to a decision by Clinton to meet the Pakistani leader, both sides were engaged in diplomatic efforts to avoid a further straining of relations.

Timing

The announcement of some steps towards democracy to coincide with the presidential visit may have provided the solution.

Washington may want to see a speedy return to democracy in Pakistan, but given its deep concern over nuclear proliferation and Islamic militancy in the region, excluding Pakistan would have hardly served the purpose.

By announcing a time frame for local elections, General Musharraf may also be aiming at activating the population after months of expectation.

Although elections are not due until December, campaigns are likely to get underway immediately.

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See also:

23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistan sets election timetable
09 Mar 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf's record in power
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
14 Jan 00 | South Asia
Pakistan urges US role in Kashmir
13 Oct 99 | South Asia
US calls for democracy in Pakistan
15 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistan ban on political rallies
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