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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Pakistan's referendum: Is it fair?
Pakistan's cabinet has unanimously approved a national referendum on extending President Pervez Musharraf's term of office for five years.

He has made it clear that he intends to legitimise his rule through a national vote ahead of parliamentary polls scheduled for October.

The move has sparked a bitter debate in the country. Pakistan's independent human rights commission has called it a farcical exercise.

It has urged General Musharraf to restore democracy by holding free and fair elections.

General Musharraf came to power in a coup in 1999. In June 2001 he declared himself President of Pakistan.

Is the referendum justified or undemocratic? Should the country hold full presidential elections?

Have your say

It is extremely important that Mr Musharraf is given the opportunuty to implement the policies introduced by his govt. This is for the sake of Pakistan. The last 50 years of this country's existence have gone to waste. With the exception of Mr Jinnah & his lieutenant Liaquat each one of the rulers turned out to be working in self interest and against the interest of the land of Pakistan. I hope an ordinary citizen will use their vote to say yes with overwhelming majority. In today's situation there is hardly any room for a no vote. Best of wishes Mr Mushaffaf.
Akhtar Rizvi, UK

Here is something all of those who don't support the referendum should think about. Have any time during the history of our country have we had any freedom from corrupt individuals in the government? Have we ever been respected in the world for our contributions to it? Has our country been branded by the international country as a haven for terrorists? Now think of this: if we still had those corrupt government parties who are boycotting the referendum would we have been clear of any of these problems of terrorists in our country? No thanks to them! They are the ones who support the terrorists...just look at their track record in stopping competition...they kill each other. And then they have the nerve to say that the General isn't building a democratic government free of corruption and a country free of terrorists and extremists?
Samy, Pakistan


In my view Mr. Musharraf will stay as president of Pakistan for 10 years more

Shaikh Ghulam Mustafa, Larkana, Pakistan
In my view Mr. Musharraf will stay as president of Pakistan for 10 years more. I and my whole family and lot of friends like this gentleman as President of Pakistan and vote for him for future President. We feel that after Bhutto he is the only man who can run this country.
Shaikh Ghulam Mustafa, Larkana, Pakistan

In Third World developing countries with limited literacy rates, politics is always relative. If it's not Musharraf then who?
Azam Jamil, Pakistan

For the last 50 years we were a nation without direction wandering around in circles. In the process Pakistan has seen more than 25 years of civilian dictatorships and military democracies and here we are one of the most corrupt, uncivilized, weak and poor country. Musharraf has given us a direction. Those who argue that referendum is un contitutional needs to go through the constitution again. Referendum also seems to be the most logical solution for the transition from extra constitutional but legal government to a democratic government in October 2002. The people of Pakistan have an option to accept or reject their president - what's wrong with that?
Muhammad Haris Zafar, Karachi, Pakistan

The General's decision to go along with the West against the fundamentalists was right. He has also saved his nation from being taken over by Taliban like government. I hope the people of Pakistan vote for the General.
Bhupender, Canada

I believe I can trust Musharraf for the simple reason because he isn't right wing nor left wing. He is neither stealing whatever money we have left in the country and he is a moderate who understands the world unlike previous "elected" Presidents. He handled the volatile situation with the terrorists with ingenuity - something we have lacked in the government for years. The streets are safer. Our economy is beginning to grow as well as our national pride and dignity.
Mo, Pakistan

What referendum? What elections? As long as US is happy with him and he is acting in US interests, he'll be the king. This is true anywhere in the world.
HP, US

If he wins he stays, if he loses he stays. whether or not he is the right man for the job, this kind of mock election does no one any favours.
Tunde Babatunde, UK

How could Musharraf justify his pledge and sincerity towards the nation? He originates within the same society as the corrupt politicians. He's just another military dictator who intends to carry on as his predecessor. The biased referendum will legitimize his power irrespective of the public opinion. No matter people vote against him or in favour, the results have already been declared i.e. his success. I've never seen fair elections in Pakistan.
Malik Dawood, Canada

Musharraf's government has done a much better job, as compared to the so called "elected" prime ministers, who were too busy building their own wealth. I am all for referendum and as a Pakistani would vote for Musharraf to stay.
Tufail, Pakistan


He should definitely stay

Seher, Pakistan
Yes, it certainly is...he is better then those politicians who have been sucking the blood of poor public of Pakistan during the last ten years. He should definitely stay and we should support him in the best interest of our country. All the best our General!
Seher, Pakistan

Like a typical bull in a china shop, Musharraf is bulldozing his way through. It doesn't bother him whether in the process, the constitution gets (further) trampled, the country becomes a laughing stock or the will of the people of Pakistan get pulverized.
Shehla Butt, Malaysia/Pakistan

Opponents to referendum argue that it is unconstitutional. Please be honest about that constitution. We have seen five democratic governments under that constitution (putting aside the 6th one of Junejo as under Zia-ul-Haq). Where did those constitutional governments lead us to? Whether Zia and Ayub were right or not in their referendums, Musharraf definitely is. He is the only one in our 50 years who has delivered and is keen on it.
Asif Hayat, Korea


A clear opportunity for every Pakistani citizen to make his or her vote count

Tom, UK
Of course it's fair. A clear opportunity for every Pakistani citizen to make his or her vote count instead of doing it via the usual corrupt party-based elections which lead to chaos in this remarkable country. The best of success to President Musharraf in his forthright endeavours.
Tom, UK

Give the terrorist tenure?! This guy is the only head of state in the world who talks loose about using nuclear weapons. I am not even sure he realizes the impact of using such weapons. The fallout will kill him too! This fellow foments hate and is bad for Pakistan. He has ensured that people do not have an alternative to him. The referendum is a farce.
R Chaubey, USA

I think the decision of Gen. Pervez Musharraf is in the best interest of Pakistan. No one should forget the he is the only leader in Pakistan who revived the image of Pakistan as a modern Muslim country , who helped the USA to fight against terrorism.
Wasi Siddiqui, Canada

This referendum is unconstitutional and illegal.
Naeem Gilani, Pakistan

General Musharaff is proving to be a tin-pot dictator through his one-man referendum. His actions are worse than Zimbabwe's Mugabe who at least had an opposition he could rig. I feel sorry for the people of Pakistan who deserve better. Next there will be a clampdown on the media. The muted response from the west to this dictator makes a mockery of any democratic ideals.
VS, USA


He has shown that he is greedy for power

Ajay, USA
Like all others, he has shown that he is greedy for power and can mould ways to do what ever he wants. Mr. Musharraf, be a man and do not behave like a girl in lap of the American father!
Ajay, USA

I am really scared. What if the referendum is held honestly and it goes against the good General? Oh my God! He has to stay for the good of the country.
Murtaza Jamal, USA

Pakistanis are good at this: " the king is dead , long live the king". These people also had praise for Ayub, Zia when they were in power. The moment they got dethroned, each in his own way, all abuses were showered on them. Looks like Musharraf is also heading this way.
Seetharam, India

Your question is not relevant. Referendum is about power and General is holding the whole coercive machinery of the state in his hands. For powerful, fair or unfair doesn't matter. I think Pakistan army and intelligence agencies have the tremendous power to destroy and destruct. But it can do anything constructive. Doesn't matter even if it is led by an angel.
Rauf, Pakistan


Another nail in the coffin of democracy

Khalid Hameed, Pakistan
Another nail in the coffin of democracy. These three years of General's rule have not brought about any major change and they will not. It is interesting to see the views mostly of Pakistani staying abroad supporting him, I guess we have no choice and the General is following the footsteps of his predecessors and leading the country nowhere.
Khalid Hameed, Pakistan

How can the referendum Musharraf is holding be fair? No one is allowed to talk against it, people are not given a choice, anyone can vote anywhere in the country away from their areas, mobile ballot-casting is allowed and national identity card is not needed to vote. Now how can we say it will be fair when anyone of his own people can vote as many times as they want, and in his favour? If someone wants to talk against the referendum - it's 3 years in prison. It's a shame, a desperate move to stay into power like Ayub Khan and Ziaul Haq did.
Shafiq Raza, London, UK

Whether people vote for him or not, he will be elected as president for another 5 years since no elections in the history of Pakistan were fair! Recent examples (last 12 years) demonstrate this: Gen. Waheed brought Benazir after overthrowing Nawaz, and the trend continued.
Ayaz, Pakistan

Imagine these people asking for referendum to extend their presidency: Idi Amin,Agustino Pinochet,Sami Abacha,Sadam Hussein,General Franco,Joseph Mobutu and many other military dictators. I can't believe this man.
Mike Aziz, Vancouver,Canada

Felt utterly disturbed by news that he has decided himself and will continue his illegitimate government. As usual all who matter will keep silence, especially the courts and judges who oath to safeguard the constitution. It is a shame that not a single Muslim country has true democracy!
Ibrahim, Pakistan


For the democracy to function minimally in a country like Pakistan, first and foremost it must achieve mass education

Nazrul Islam, Quebec, Canada
Even in the west perfect democracy does not exist. Here too money plays a significant role. Although theoretically the judiciary should function equally for every citizen in western democracy, in reality it functions better for those who have more cash. True democracy can only be achieved when individual rights are not only enshrined in the constitution also truly implemented. For the democracy to function minimally in a country like Pakistan, first and foremost it must achieve mass education, for both men and women, influence of feudal lords should be diminished etc.
Nazrul Islam, Quebec, Canada

What difference does the referendum make? The west, America and Britain in particular, need this black sheep right now, so his referendum will be legitimised. Besides, it makes no difference what the Pakistanis want as long as Bush and Musharraf themselves want it!
S. Musharrif, Pakistan

The referendum is unfair. It does not support multi-party democracy, severely restricts candidate choice and hence cannot and does not follow the principles of democracy. I know the people of Pakistan have had traumatic experiences with democracy in the past. But, as for any other country, Pakistan must be given a chance to succeed with democracy, and hopefully she will!
Somnath Mukhopadhyay, United Kingdom

Musharraf referendum is right in the present scenario. If the West thinks that an elected government is what the essence of democracy is, so they are wrong, democracy means how it works. And I believe the Musharraf government is very much democratic as compared to other elected governments.
Syed Waqas Abdullah, Pakistan

I just finished listening to the speech by Musharraf on the referendum issue. All I can say is that if you are a well wisher of Pakistan, then you will support him on his journey to make Pakistan prosper. Otherwise, you can stay silent on the sidelines and speak without analyzing the details. He is the best thing that can and has ever happened to Pakistan.
Kaleem A., London,UK


I believe that Musharraf is a man of principle and the best one for our country

Saima Hameed, London, England
I believe that Musharraf is a man of principle and the best one for our country. I hope he stays on.
Saima Hameed, London, England

When General Musharraf came to power in a coup d'etat the western world roundly condemned the action because it didn't fit into the democratic norm, to which most western countries subscribe. Attempting to cast a country like Pakistan in the same image doesn't necessarily fit the mould. Considering the disparate groups contending for power in Pakistan, I am of the opinion that only a leader with a strong hand can be reasonably expected to hold the country together. I think the events of the past 6 months demonstrate the correctness of that opinion. Also, considering that an attempt was made several years ago to turn Pakistan into an Islamic republic should make clear to everyone the dangers posed by such a development. I hope General Musharraf receives a strong mandate in the upcoming referendum.
Marten King, USA

Why doesn't in the West allow us to do it our way? Why is that they have to tell us what's wrong and what's not? All we, people of Pakistan want, is to be left alone and please don't give us these lessons of democracy as we are now sick and tired of this western type of democracy. Let us decide what we want to do and how we want to live. To us, it is not important how a person comes in power. All we care about is a person who can deliver.
Hussain, Pakistan

Pakistan's referendum should be and it will be TOP class.
Abbas, Pakistan


Generals who come by coups go out only by coups

Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, US
All things being fair in war and love, it is unfair to judge generals by the fairness of their actions. Effectiveness would be a better measure. After his coup, all but one of the Supreme Court judges agreed to pledge loyalty to him instead of to the Constitution. He was accepted with barely a murmur when he dumped his and his country's two decade long obsession with Jihad and the Taliban. The people of Pakistan who accepted him with out a referendum all this while would accept him in the referendum too, especially since its outcome is predestined. Generals who come by coups go out only by coups. The world's great democracies would applaud or ostracize him depending on how he serves their national interests at that given instant. The referendum would surely provide them with the fig leaf to hide behind.
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, US

Does it matter whether it's fair? Surely it's better than the sham of a democracy we've had in the last decade!
M.H, UK

I do not think so that the results will be fair. It's old wine in new glass.
Aftab Abro, Karachi,Pakistan

Let there be a referendum, before we start judging whether the referendum is fair or not or how clean it is. A referendum is part of the democratic process, so the question of fairness does not arise. I see the Indians have come out in force to try malign Pakistan yet again. But the question remains it is nobody's business except for the people of Pakistan. As a Pakistani I have full trust in the integrity of Pervez Musharraf and in his ability to lead Pakistan.
Saqib Hussain, UK


The proposed referendum is unconstitutional and illegal

Muhameed Ali Shahani, Pakistan
Of course not. The proposed referendum is unconstitutional and illegal. It is an attempt to secure political legitimacy, but legitimacy will continue to elude him, as it has eluded dictators in the past. I do agree with some of the policies of General Musharraf because he has taken some measures which even the political governments could not take, but it does not mean that we would support his extra constitutional steps too. If he intends to serve the nation he should have come the democratic process.
Muhameed Ali Shahani, Pakistan

Although the general was against corruption in the beginning, it does not legitimise his destruction of the democratic institutions. Democratic machines have to be let work. There is no room for dictators in today's world any more. They have to go. If Musharraf wants to be president, he should resign and present himself to the legal system to prove him innocent and then he should contest the election for presidency.
Mohammad Khan, USA

I believe that Musharraf had good intentions when they went through with the military coup in 1999. He is a smart man and it would be safe to say that so far he has made a majority of fruitful decisions for his state. I believe two of his top goals are to revive the economy of his nation and to bring peace. He has been very strong too in the face of mass opposition to his many wise choices. Many would agree he has done his best and few would be good enough to replace him. Therefore, if I had the choice, I would choose him as President again.
Jofrin Jose, India

Fair or not. The country needs a stable government and leadership. Musharaaf has proven himself gold in the current situation. If the referendum remotely resembles the polling of fair public opinion to legitimise his presence, so be it.
KZ, USA

What is the point of such a referendum for power, given the fact that there is only one candidate, and the results are already known ? Musharraf can as well go to the courts for an indefinite extension where he has his people sitting as judges and the verdict is as predictable.
Ashish Kumar, USA

The General is doing a good job and referendum would legitimise his status, I think the way he has preformed in the last three years, he deserves to be on the top.
Saad Maqsood, Pakistan


We want development within the ethics. This person is not acceptable

M_Usman, Pakistan
This is unjustified action. This person want development at the cost of Islam but we want a development within Islam which would make our country and whole world peaceful. We want development within the ethics. This person is not acceptable. This man can win only use cheating.
M_Usman, Pakistan

Military dictators always win "elections". If Musharraf plays his "anti-India" and "freedom fighters, not terrorists" lines I can see him winning with a landslide!
Aziz Ali, Delhi, India

Whatever Musharraf has accomplished so far has been in the interest of his country - no one can doubt that. He should keep on going! People who doubt his ability should look at what Bhutto and Sharrif have achieved in the past 12 years - nothing but corruption and the very near collapse of the Pakistan economy. So good luck to him.
Ishtiaq Ahmed, UK


Being a Pakistani, I believe that honest people coming via the wrong system is a better option than corrupt people via the right system

Murad Quasim, Australia
Mahatir Mohammed said something like "We no longer choose people who are qualified and capable in terms of party leadership calibre..." but people who make the most of the elections by their wealth". This is what has specifically been true in Pakistan general elections. Being a Pakistani, I believe that honest people coming via the wrong system is a better option than corrupt people via the right system. The people opposing the referendum should look back to past political system in Pakistan. Almost all elections yielded a filthy rich bunch of people "buying" the seats of the legislature and then recovering their "investments" by looting and plundering under the auspices of two big political parties. Common people cannot even think of making it to the assemblies. It's hard for this system to be changed overnight and I'm not very optimistic about the October 2002 elections either. But Musharraf's proposed 5 year period with improved economical and law-and-order situation will help the people of Pakistan elect an honest government in 2007.
Murad Quasim, Australia

The referendum is totally unjustified and undemocratic. This is a rascal action by a rascal person.
Usman, Pakistan

Its funny how people think. Most people are of the opinion that they will get a chance to decide. Others hope that the referendum will not be tampered with. How optimistic! What happens if there is a landslide of "no" votes? Is General Musharraf just going to say "Oh dear, tough luck" and walk away? Haven't they learnt anything from the past? Power acquired through brute force is not just given away. Free and fair elections are not a western solution or influence but a democratic way of life. A referendum forced down people's throats negates everything that democracy stands for.
Vinay, UK

Hoax, hoax, hoax - that country has a habit of living with lies & fakes.
Omer Ismail, USA

Robert Mugabe has a presidential election in Zimbabwe and fixes the result so he can't lose. The result? Zimbabwe gets suspended from the commonwealth for a year, and UK politicians queue up to criticise Mr Mugabe. General Musharraf has a referendum and doesn't allow anyone else to stand for president, so the result's fixed before it starts. I trust UK politicians will queue up to condemn him, and to get Pakistan suspended from the commonwealth for a year?
Steve Wehrle, UK


Pakistan needs decades of political development of its institutions and a raising of literacy levels before its people could effectively decide on the most appropriate leader

Muz Mumtaz, UK
Pakistan needs decades of political development of its institutions and a raising of educational/literacy levels before its people could effectively decide on the most appropriate leader - at the moment populism rules and has brought to power people who have robbed the nation blind. Hence, I think the General should be allowed to reconstruct the democratic system of Pakistan but only if it serves the best interests of its people, not of the General.
Muz Mumtaz, UK

The General needs to deliver which he has failed so far since he forced himself into power against yet another corrupt leader Nawaz Sharif since 1999. Ever since, the state of affairs in Pakistan have worsened, be it economy, politics, law and order, security, foreign investment and debts etc. etc. Though he has got immense authority but seems neglecting responsibility which comes along. It's a pity that so far, nearly all the leaders (elected or forced) have taken this country for a ride. This referendum is useless until he addresses the core issues of the state right away e.g. delegating power.
Riaz, Ireland

The question is not whether the referendum is fair or not. The true question is whether Musharaff is the right person to head Pakistan, and the answer is definitely yes ! We in the "West" should stop thinking that democracy as we know it can and must be applied everywhere: many countries are not ready for it and some will never be. Traditions, education, cultural differences and customs, including religious behaviours, prevent democracy from being understood and seen as the best system to practice. Having lived and worked in Pakistan for many years I can assure you that democracy is not a solution there. It rather needs a strong and determined leader as people in that part of the world are more inclined to rever, respect and honour a "chief" than a democratically elected presient as we are used to in the West.
G.T., Switzerland

Yes it is, keeping the current conditions in mind.
Ali Khan, USA


The leading political and military mafia is only interested in attaining absolute power

Ibrahim Raja, Sweden
The leading political and military mafia is only interested in attaining absolute power. None of them is sincere to the country's 150 million people, otherwise they could have brought the country on the road of the democracy by strengthening the real democratic system. Unfortunately the Generals are least interested to have strong political, judicial and administrative institutions that can threaten their supremacy. Musharraf is no exception. He is trying to attain his absolute power to let the politicians dance around his musical chairs and that is unfair in this global village of ours.
Ibrahim Raja, Sweden

This referendum is similar to one made by General Zia ul Haq, in 1984, to extend his term in office as Pakistan's president. President Musharraf has pulled an old page out of an old script. He is going to go through the same movements and motions.
Sanjay Jalali, Singapore

Referendum is just one of the many ways with an ultimate goal of legitimising the ambition of President to hold the office for the next 5 years. The only question is do each Pakistani citizen can freely & fairly cast their vote in favour or opposition of such move for election ?
Shridhar Shah, India

Those who understand only the language of military and militancy naturally get ruled by military and militants. Pakistan is no exception.
Sunil P, Doha Qatar/India

Musharraf must understand that if he wants peace with India, Pakistan must first have a legitimate government. Musharraf is making some good steps in the right direction, and hopefully things will soon improve between India and Pakistan, resulting in a military de-escalation on both sides.
Rahul Mahajan, UK / India


To the champions of "democratic values": have you stopped to consider whether your ideals work in a country like Pakistan?

Fahd Arshad, Pakistan/USA
To the champions of "democratic values": have you stopped to consider whether your ideals work in a country like Pakistan? A one-person, one-vote system assumes that a majority of people are literate and aware of political realities. Anyone familiar with Pakistan knows that this is far from the truth. General Musharraf has done a much better job than the democratically elected leaders we've had. The Army didn't force them to build palaces abroad, loot, and plunder. They, the chosen ones, did. I'd rather see the benevolent dictator, who rules by the general assent of the people, and is tempered by ten generals with guns, than the Bhuttos, Nawazs, or any one else of the cadre at the helm of Pakistan. Musharraf has my support (and vote) for the next five years.
Fahd Arshad, Pakistan/USA

So far General Musharraf has done a wonderful job in dealing with the War on Terror and I doubt any of the previous PM's can do what he did, and we must not forget that he may have averted a nuclear catastrophe in East Asia. I don't see anything wrong in having a referendum now and elections later as long as the people of the land can decide what they want and the results are free and fair.
Robert A Khin, Burma / Malaysia

Being from Pakistan, I can say by fact that most of the educated people are in full favour for him to stay in power so he could get rid of mullahism even if it takes a referendum to do it. All these political parties are calling this un-constitutional but I ask them that if they respect constitutional.
Nasir Chaudhry, Pakistan

General Musharraf follows in the footsteps of his predecessor General Zia. They say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Nowhere in the world this is truer than in Pakistan. General Musharraf is no different than all the dictators that came before him. He thinks he has the God-given right to rule Pakistan until he seems fit, hence his ploy to hold a referendum.

Technically there is nothing wrong with a referendum except that when these are held in Pakistan, the outcome can always be predicted. He would never allow any scenario less than a landslide "yes" vote to ever come true. The whole premise of his rule in Pakistan is by force. This is not a person who would give that up easily. So this vote is not and must not be considered a democratic vote for the transfer of power. Can anyone explain to me what a dictator will do in the case of a "no" vote? What he is saying to the people of Pakistan is that you must vote for me or else I am staying in power anyway!
AZ, New York, USA


What matters to us most is to make our home country strong and a secure place to live in

Akhlaq Nabi, Pakistan
Is the referendum fair or democratic? For most of us Pakistanis living in Pakistan it does not matter. What matters to us most is to make our home country strong and a secure place to live in. We don't need to follow the rules and regulations of western countries because our conditions here are totally different and western solutions don't apply here. The Pakistanis living abroad don't have the right to suggest so. President General Pervez Musharraf and his Government is the best thing for our country and I trust his abilities to deliver.
Akhlaq Nabi, Pakistan

I completely and fully support the referendum. It will not only give a chance to all Pakistanis to voice their opinion but also gives a hope that Pakistan will continue on the path that will bring prosperity to the country. Since independence the only governments that did anything for the country are military governments. Democratically elected governments have left Pakistan further and further behind in the list of third world countries. President Musharraf has been trying very hard to lead Pakistan into a new era and I think it is for people of Pakistan to decide whether they want to give him a chance to do so or not.
Majid Jameel, Dubai, UAE

I would strongly say that referendum is not fair and reject it. He should hold free and fair election in the country to allow people of Pakistan to choose their own leader, which is their basic right.
Waheed Rasab, United Kingdom

I think the General has handled the WTC crisis better than any one else could have handled it. As long as the referendum is fair (a big if), everything should be alright. We have to keep in mind that there was no public uprising when he came into power which implied a tacit approval of the masses. He has steered the country through this crisis very adeptly.
Irfan, USA

If he indeed is so popular, and has the confidence of having the support of the people, why does he not have a presidential election and let others contest, campaign and debate? Or why does he not form his own party which would contest the general elections? The referendum looks more like the theatrics which he seems to have mastered over the years. By the way, it's worth remembering that like all the previous military dictators of Pakistan, he too had promised elections within a couple of years. None of his predecessors did what they had promised. Zia stuck around for decades.
Pranav, India

Going by General Musharraf's record in office, one has to accept, however grudgingly, that he is the right person to lead Pakistan. His decision to go after Islamic extremists and his support for the war against Al-Qaeda are sufficient to convince me that the General has got his priorities right. The only people who will be unhappy with Musharraf staying in power are our Indian neighbours. And for good reason too. Unlike his elected predecessor, he knows what to say to the Indians, and how to say it.
Nausherwan Lahori, Lahore, Pakistan

Why not a general like Pervez Musharaf a brave and commited to the right path is many times better than the corrupt politicians who have looted the public money for their self greed. These corrupt politicians were elected by the same people but they were betrayed . Now they have a chance to elect the best man to bring back the wealth and dignity to the country. The last two years have shown what he has done - no one in the history of Pakistan has done before because they did not have the courage. I believe right minded people will elect him and he will be as legal as those corrupt politicians think they are.
Asghar Khan, Qatar

If Pervez Musharraf was serious about democracy, then he would choose elections and not a referendum. As is often said, people get the government that they deserve. If Pakistanis are willing to accept a military dictator as their head of state, endorsed through a referendum, then that's what they deserve. The fault largely lies with the long history of democratically elected but highly corrupt governments from both main political parties. Corruption and abuse of power under the name of democracy is perhaps worse than a token democracy. Most of the Western democracies would care little, of course, as long as the ruler is willing to toe their line. It is up to Pakistani people to fight for their own freedom and real democracy, and prosperity but unfortunately there is very little hope of that happening as long as they continue to be deprived of modern education.
Sanjeev Dandekar, Australia


This referendum is neither fair nor legal

Mir, Canada
Exercises carried out by military dictators to perpetuate themselves in power are neither fair nor legal and General Musharraf's referendum is no exception. As usual, he will receive a high percentage of Yes votes automatically resulting in a five year extension. Though these are the usual shenanigans of many heads of state past and present, what will be interesting to see is the reaction of the stalwarts of the developed countries. Will they expose it as a farcical exercise which usurps the right of the people of Pakistan to choose their form of governance or will they join with him in the name of expediency to further military rule in Pakistan. Going by the recent example of Mr Mugabe, who mind you is an elected civilian head of state, the least reaction would be a non recognition of this unfair and illegal procedure of a single candidate presidential choice.
Mir, Canada

The people of Pakistan are getting a chance to voice their opinion through this referendum. As long as it is fair, I think the world community should respect the outcome.
M Pandian, India/USA

Yes, of course Pakistan should hold a presidential election. And if Musharraf wants a referendum too, then why not have one? So long as the results of both are not tampered with and are a fair representation of what the electorate wants, and are acted upon accordingly, then how much more democratic can you possibly get? What's the problem?
Chris B, England

Being a Pakistani I am all for the referendum to be held. It will allow us, the people, to decide if Musharraf should remain President of Pakistan for the next five years or not. Generally the Pakistani public do support him for his modest views and more importantly for his policies to revive the Pakistani economy but we have to wait and see if his policies and actions bring him the seat of the presidency. I for one am going to vote for him.
Naveed Ali, Pakistan/Denmark


A referendum is the fairest way of keeping his rule legitimate

Michael, Dublin, Ireland
Call me mad, but I think the good General can be trusted. He has done a good job of running the country and is on the right side of the coalition against terrorism. A referendum is the fairest way of keeping his rule legitimate. Sometimes a strong man is needed to sort things out until the land is fertile and ready for democracy to resume.
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

He is no different from other dictators. He is bound to fail. His actions are not welcome around the world. The Pakistani people have got the government they deserve.
Hindupur Rajagopalan, Canada

General Musharraf must leave the throne and allow the people to decide what they want. I think the reason why Pakistan has become a hub of terrorists and terrorism is because people have had no proper say there. It happens in countries where there is a military ruler like Iraq. Decisions made in these type of countries are mood swings of these rulers and that is dangerous to world peace. I think the world community must force them to leave the throne and let the people rule.
Nick Madurkar, USA

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Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
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03 Apr 02 | South Asia
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