Pakistan's Next President Is a Category 5 Disaster
If there's a case to be made against democracy, few countries make it better than Pakistan.
On Saturday, Pakistani legislators will elect a new president to replace Pervez Musharraf, the general-turned-strongman who resigned the office last month.
In one corner there is Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a former journalist and one-time political prisoner of Mr. Musharraf who is nonetheless running as the candidate of the general's old party. Mr. Mushahid, probably the best of the bunch, stands next to no chance of winning.
In another corner there is Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, candidate of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party. Mr. Sharif -- whose record includes bankrupting his country, presiding over a disastrous military campaign against India, and attempting to implement Sharia law while awarding himself near-dictatorial powers -- has made it clear he intends to gut the powers of the presidency should he return to office.
And then there is Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and leader of the Pakistan People's Party. Mr. Zardari, who has compared himself to Jesus (an innocent accused of crimes he did not commit), is easily one of the most notorious figures in the long parade of horribles that make up the country's political history. He is, of course, expected to win Saturday's ballot handily.
Just how bad is Mr. Zardari? It would be a relief if it were true that he was merely suffering from dementia, a diagnosis offered by two New York psychiatrists last year. But that diagnosis seems to have been produced mainly with a view toward defending himself against corruption charges in a British court.
Mr. Zardari -- who earned the moniker "Mr. 10%" for allegedly demanding kickbacks during his wife's two terms in office -- has long been dogged by accusations of corruption. In 2003, a Swiss magistrate found him and Mrs. Bhutto guilty of laundering $10 million. Mr. Zardari has admitted to owning a 355-acre estate near London, despite coming from a family of relatively modest means and reporting little income at the time it was purchased. A 1998 report by the New York Times's John Burns suggests he may have made off with as much as $1.5 billion in kickbacks. This was at a time when his wife was piously claiming to represent the interests of Pakistan's impoverished masses and denouncing corrupt leaders who "leave the cupboard bare." ...
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