Ill-thought mea culpa
In his May 27 speech, General Pervez Musharraf mentioned how some overly enthusiastic people in the field might have tried to wangle results in his favour during the referendum. But the thrust of his argument was that he was destined to win it handsomely. After all, didnt all the minorities, all the women, all the youth, all the labourers, all the chambers of commerce want to vote for him? He felt the need to mention the slight irregularity only because he would have won hands down - against whom is not the issue here - without such people choosing to act in an imprudent manner.
We are surprised. Why did he need to refer to the referendum in a speech revolving around other more important issues? Did he want to reassure people that the general elections announced for October 7 would indeed be free, fair and transparent, despite the enthusiasm of state functionaries to contrive results in the referendum? Whatever his motive, the admission of some wrong doing coupled with the assertion of overwhelming popularity has come a cropper. It makes him sound immodest and clever by half. Worse, it opens him to the demand that he should now get rid of the Chief Election Commissioner who condoned or ignored such excesses. But if he were to do that, it would amount to an admission of culpability beyond redemption, which is clearly not desirable.
There will be time to concede the demand of the political parties for a CEC acceptable to all and not tainted by the referendum. But that should follow rather than precede negotiations with the opposition. In the interests of protecting the judiciary, it should also be seen as a positive gesture aimed at consensus-building rather than a negative one following a dubious referendum.