Slamming Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's attempt to stay in power through political fiat, a leading newspaper in the US has said the Bush administration's continuing support for the military ruler for "short-term benefits" will only make "a bad problem worse".
"After unsuccessful negotiations with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, he (Musharraf) has returned to the practice of political fiat that has served his country so poorly over the past eight years," The Washington Post said in an editorial titled 'Re-election by Fiat'.
Terming Musharraf's undertaking before the Supreme Court that he will remove his uniform after his re-election "less a concession than a threat to both Pakistan's centrist political parties and the court", the paper said the general is in effect insisting that he be given another five-year mandate on his own terms, even though a "large majority of Pakistanis want to see him step down and election process violates the constitution on multiple grounds".
The paper said the likely result of the General's actions is that, instead of uniting against the growing threat from Islamic extremist groups, Pakistan's secular institutions will continue to wage a "destructive political war" against each other.
The paper also criticised the Bush administration for continuing to support the General, saying "by failing to insist that Musharraf come to terms with the country's moderate and secular centre, the Bush administration is making a bad problem worse."
"It's doubtful that the General would pursue this course if not for the tolerance and support he enjoys from the Bush administration, which has repeatedly signalled that it prefers the short-term benefits of alliance with an autocratic general to the uncertainties and messiness of a return to democracy.
"The risks and dangers for the United States in Pakistan are unquestionably great," the paper said. A government elected though free and fair polls will be better able to confront al Qaeda, the Taliban and other extremist movements, the editorial said, adding if Musharraf succeeds in imposing his own solution, he will deal a severe blow to the rule of law and further isolate and weaken himself.