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MU Professor Says Pakistan May Have Entered New Democratic Era, Musharraf's Resignation Would Maintain Dignity

Feb. 20, 2008

Story Contact:  Bryan E. Jones, (573) 882-9144,
Paul Wallace, (573) 442-0681 (office) (573) 424-7917 (cell),

COLUMBIA, Mo. – With the recent defeat of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s ruling party in parliamentary elections, the face of government is changing in Pakistan. The party of former premier Nawaz Sharif, the party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and a smaller third party from the northern frontier, if collaborative, will hold two-thirds of the seats in the new parliament. Musharraf was re-elected to a five-year term October 2007, but his popularity fell after a series of decisions including firing the judiciary, restricting the press, imposing emergency rule and incarcerating those in political opposition.

Paul Wallace, a University of Missouri expert in international terrorism and south Asia, said the election is a major change for Pakistan and its people are full of optimism.

“A new democratic era may have just emerged in Pakistan with prospects for more effective, positive consequences in the global war on terrorism,” said Wallace, professor of political science in the MU College of Arts and Science. “This is a secular democratic response and with three political parties dominating Pakistan politics, they will be able to do something about terrorism.”

Following the election and the restoration of judges to their posts, Wallace proposed three possible scenarios for Pakistan’s future: 1.) Opposition parties unite, judges will decide Musharraf was not elected lawfully and, therefore, is not president. 2.) Opposition parties unite and choose a prime minister who is sworn in by Mursharraf who then will resign, thereby maintaining his dignity and saving face. The second option, according to Wallace, will be the most acceptable and allow for a smooth transition. 3.) Opposition parties resume competition and Musharraf does not go quietly.

“The people of Pakistan are euphoric,” Wallace said. “We now need to look at what democratic options Pakistan has. The former constitution will be restored and the United States will need to learn from what has happened in Pakistan and be careful to work in conjunction with the Pakistan government. What is at issue is how far to trust.”

Wallace has been a member of MU’s faculty since 1964. Since 1993, he has taught a course about terrorism, “Terrorism and conflict resolution: Religious, Ethnic and Ideological Politics.” He has authored numerous articles and chapters on the subject. In 2003, he served as an expert witness at the Air India trial in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also serves on the Editors/Advisory Board for the annual edition of Violence and Terrorism published by McGraw-Hill/Dushkin. His most recent book chapter is: “Countering Terrorist Movements in India: Kashmir and Khalistan, in Democracy and Counterterrorism: Lessons from the Past” (Washington DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2007).