As apprehensive as I am about the outcome of the elections, there is also a small chance that this could be a first step toward stability. If the elections are broadly free and fair and the two large opposition parties accept the poll results, then chances are that it could lead to Musharraf's exit from the scene and the formation of a national government that will have the chance to start putting the pieces back together. Even with a national government, however, there are a lot of difficulties ahead and the cleaning up of the Musharrafian mess will take feats of statesmanship that the opposition leaders have not previously demonstrated. Tackling the immediate issues of judicial independence, media freedom, provincial harmony and economic relief while evolving an equitable sharing of power without vengeful targeting of opponents is a tall order. All this does not even mention the control of the rapidly speading menace of terrorism that will require political compromise, public mobilization and some deft distancing from Washington.
Here is to hoping that February 18th, 2008 brings some positive change for the suffering and burdened citizens of the Pakistani state.