Pakistan's presidential election will be held next year. General Pervez Musharraf assumed the presidency by decree in 2001 following the military overthrow of the elected government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999. In 2002, a controversial nationwide referendum extended Mr. Musharraf's presidency for five more years. In December 2003, an equally controversial election by Pakistan's national assembly re-affirmed Mr. Musharraf's presidency until 2007.
Domestic and international observers found serious flaws in both the 2002 national elections and the 2005 local elections, including interference by political parties, which affected the outcome of the vote in parts of the country. However, Mr. Musharraf says more Pakistanis are now being included in the political process:
"We have empowered the people of Pakistan by introducing a local government system where we have given them the destiny of their areas for development, for welfare, for progress in their own hands through financial, political and administrative involvement."
Despite concerns by human rights advocacy groups and the international community regarding the treatment of women and minorities in Pakistan, Mr. Musharraf says democracy also means rights for Pakistani women:
"Today there are over thirty-thousand women in the political hierarchy of Pakistan. We have empowered the minorities of Pakistan for the first time. Then we have also empowered. . . the media and the press. . . . Previously there was only one Pakistan[i] television. Today there are dozens of channels. All of these people. . . are the result of opening. . . the print media and the electronic media. . . . Let me assure you that democracy will prevail."
On his visit to Pakistan, President George W. Bush expressed support for democratization, including free and fair national elections in 2007:
"President Musharraf understands that in the long run, the way to defeat terrorists is to replace an ideology of hatred with an ideology of hope. . . .President Musharraf envisions a modern state that provides an alternative to radicalism."
"The elections scheduled for 2007 are a great opportunity for Pakistan," says Mr. Bush. The U.S., he says, "will continue working with Pakistan to lay the foundations of democracy."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.