ON Wednesday evening the al-Jazeera English language news channel was confidently predicting that a state of emergency was about to be declared in Pakistan by President Musharraf. A quick check on BBC, Sky, Fox News and CNN showed they were more concerned with foot-and-mouth, Maddy, Iraq and broken bridges; their news judgement was proved right because by the following morning it was clear that Musharraf had looked over the brink and decided that he did not like what he saw down there. Pakistan has had more than its fair share of states of emergency in its 60-year history but none has led to a permament solution to its myriad problems. On the face of it, Musharraf underlined his democratic principles by this decision after several months when they have seemed to be open to question.

Why, then, did Musharraf allow news that he was contemplating the emergency option to leak to the media? Might it have been that he wanted in the most public way possible to warn the West, and the United States in particular, that he needs more help and less hindrance from his friends to keep his country from internal breakdown? He has problems enough without intervention over Osama bin Laden's alleged presence in Pakistan or heavy hints that if he is going to stand again for the Presidency he should relinquish his military status. Musharraf may not be perfect but he is best bet for Pakistan that the West has got.


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