The AP reports this morning that General Pervez Musharraf will install a caretaker (read “puppet”) government that introduces the “essence of democracy” in Pakistan;

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Friday swore in a caretaker administration and declared he had “introduced the essence of democracy in Pakistan,” the day a senior U.S. envoy arrived in capital to urge the end of emergency rule. […] At a ceremony in the capital, Islamabad, a somber-faced Musharraf said the outgoing Cabinet should be proud of having helped turn around the economy and move Pakistan back toward democracy. “I take pride in the fact that, being a man in uniform, I have actually introduced the essence of democracy in Pakistan, whether anyone believes it or not,” the general said after installing the caretaker ministers at the presidential palace. The interim government, headed by Musharraf loyalist and former Senate chairman Mohammedmian Soomro, is charged with guiding Pakistan through the parliamentary elections. Musharraf insists he declared the emergency to prevent judicial interference and the rising threat from militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida from derailing the vote. But Musharraf’s emergency faces stiff criticism from countries including the United States, his key international backer, that the ballot cannot be fair unless restrictions on the opposition and the media are ended.

After promising to step down, it looks like President Bush’s calls for a return to democracy are having some effect; Musharraf must think Bush meant American-style “essence of democracy”- that’s why he installed a hand-picked set of cronies to temporarily mollify the criticism from the West. I agree with a few of the Democratic candidates from last night’s debate in Vegas, most notably Senator Joe Biden; make American military assistance conditional on a restoration of the Pakistani constitution and a true return to the rule of law. Security can only be attained through a peaceful and democratic exercise of legitimate elections.

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