TIME Magazine announced that Vladimir Putin will be their Person of the Year for 2007, but they got it wrong (though thankfully they didn't pick Al Gore). Pervez Musharraf was the Person of the Year all along: he is the key U.S. ally in the War on Terror, and he is besieged on all sides by insurgents peeling away large tracts of his nation, democratic reformers demanding an end to his military diktat, and Islamic extremists who want to get their claws on Pakistan's frightening nuclear capabilities. Pakistan is the vortex, and Musharraf is at the center.
His situation alone would put him in the running as Person of the Year, but his actions should have ensured TIME's editors would choose him. He made a deal for autonomy with the tribes of the Northwest Frontier Province, launched a major offensive in the Swat valley, and stormed the Red Mosque in Islamabad. He declared a state of emergency, and wrangled with Bhutto and the U.S. State Department over the reinstitution of democracy.
The assassination yesterday of Benzir Bhutto of course adds to the weight he bears. He is already being blamed for her death, but whether he is to blame or not, he now bears the woeful costs of the near-civil war that now ensues.
Musharraf has already faced nightmares Vladimir Putin can't even imagine.