The fact that Musharraf is resigning is excellent news. Yesterday’s news that the military was not going to interfere with his impeachment is far more important. The military was prepared to turn its back on Musharraf’s old ways, of engineering military coups, possibly assassinations, and throwing thousands of democracy proponents in jail.

This is a major turning point in the history of modern Pakistan, and perhaps the beginning of an authentic democratic evolution. The foundation of democracy is the willingness of militaries to submit to civilian rule. The only reason that the United States achieved democracy as early as it did is because General George Washington went home. With all that power and popularity, amazingly, he just went home! It was a damn miracle in history. Only after constant prodding did he accept the Presidency. He never had imperial ambitions, though he easily could have succumbed to that common drug of military leadership.

What is interesting for negotiation and conflict resolution is what, according the report, the Pakistani military does expect from the civilian procedure. It does not want a humiliation of Musharraf, or his execution. As Commander in Chief of the Army, the military leadership is suggesting that this would cause too much of a rift with the rank and file of a proud military sub-culture. A tough pill to swallow for those who have been victims.

Once again, positive increments of violence prevention and conflict mitigation require some agonizing moral compromises. But these might be a small price to pay for the future of over a billion and a half people on the Indian sub-continent. The stability of the Pakistani/Indian relationship depends on the evolution of democracy in both countries. In addition, Pakistan, as a non-Arab Islamic country, and a front-line state of the old Cold War and the present War on Terror, as well as the internecine Sunni/Shi’ite global conflict, desperately needs civilian rule to iron out its domestic challenges with old and new wars. The world needs Pakistan to have civilian rule. Let Musharraf go in peace, in order to inch billions toward greater stability and peace.

© Marc Gopin