Thursday, December 27, 2007

Beyond Bhutto: The Next Steps

After the shocking assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the next few days in Pakistan are crucial for the stability of the nation and the subcontinent. OTFS presents its opinions on what the next steps should be.

Should elections be held or emergency re-instated?
Elections MUST go ahead. This is the most important move that President Musharraf must make. The opposition - now led solely by Nawaz Sharif - must come together and ensure that elections go on. If not, the terrorists would have won. This is the time to save a nation: political differences are immaterial.

Should Musharraf quit?
Eventually, yes. But not now. Especially not now. For better or worse, this man is the most important citizen of Pakistan. He alone can bring stability now. He must, at all costs, stay on and ensure that a government is elected. It is the only way out.

Should emergency be re-instated?
That depends on the next few days. If violence erupts on a large scale and the police is unable to handle it, and if it threatens the very stability of the nation, then the President will have to declare emergency. However, this is better avoided.

How should the West react?
By swallowing its pride. Don't expect Pakistan to magically erupt into democracy: it will be hard and it will not be pretty. Although only Bhutto died today, a bid on Nawaz Sharif's life was also made. The battle is not over, and the last thing the nation needs is America's diktat. Democracy will come, and it will come sans the military. And the US will have to live with that.

How should India react?
Step-up border patrols ASAP. The terrorists responsible for this have few options: either run into Afghanistan, Iran or PoK (and eventually Kashmir). And high alert needs to be declared in the major cities of the country. Benazir Bhutto's death has far reaching consequences for both nations.

How would investors react?
Obviously, if instability continues, Pakistan Sovereign Rating (S&P) of B+ would have to be lowered. Furthermore, oil and gold prices have spiked, fearing trouble in the middle east. However, this incident's effect on the markets will be short-lived, unlike its political implications. Investors best remain cautioned.

What does this shocking incident mean?
It means the forces opposed to democracy - the forces that have threatened to destroy Israel and India: Asia's two greatest democracies plagued by terrorism - will never rest until they are defeated. Weapons and threats will not do it: it will take democracy. Benazir Bhutto stood for democracy. That's her message to the world: that's how she would like to be remembered, as she rests in peace, next to her beloved father.


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