A referendum on extension of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s rule for five years was held in the country on April 30. Provisional results of the referendum are being summed up now. To all appearances, the general will manage to stay at head of the state.
Observers say, no great stir was caused by the referendum. Majority of the Pakistani ignored appeals of the government to vote at the referendum and of the opposition urging to boycott the voting. Although the president lowered the electoral qualification from 21 to 18 years, the appearance at the referendum was not very high. BBCRussian informs, citizens of Quetta openly boycotted the referendum that made Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, head of the 15-party Alliance for Restoration of Democracy announce: “The Pakistan people are against Musharraf’s rule.” At the same time Pervez Musharraf is sure he is a success.
Members of the electoral commission also share his optimism. They say, majority of the voters who came to the referendum supported extension of Musharraf’s rule. Thus, the incumbent Pakistani president is very likely to achieve his main goal. He used the referendum to make his regime legitimate, especially in the eyes of the world community and the USA particularly. Although US officials try to forget the fact that Pervez Musharraf came to power due to a military coup, nevertheless it is a sure fact. The US Department of State probably feels uneasy every time it comes to Pervez Musharraf who usurped the power several years ago. Nowadays, when all requirements are observed, it is possible to carry on a dialogue with the Pakistani president as with an official supported by the majority of the population.
However, it is not ruled out that the referendum will entail some problems for the general. Indeed, leaders of the radical Islamic organizations, who are traditionally really very influential in the society of Pakistan, did not recognize Musharraf’s legitimacy. They are strong enough to initiate mass protest actions. As long as the army supports the president, he is safe. But what is to happen if Musharraf loses this support?
In any case, the referendum will not increase authority of Pervez Musharraf, as he has got enough already. And the nearest five years are to demonstrate effect of the referendum’s results on the Pakistani people. So far people have just few reasons to be optimistic.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Photo from BBC archives
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/05/01/40596.html