REASSURING WORDS

REASSURING WORDS

Two things have stood out in recent days in Pakistan.

The first was how some of the key points of the speech Sunday by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who took over the Asian nuclear power's government last week, sounded as if they were taken from a standard script used by dictators. The armed forces won't keep power any longer than necessary, he said; rampant corruption will be rooted out; the nation will be returned to true democracy as soon as possible.The second thing of note was the acquiescent public reaction to the coup. Part of that may come from the fact that the general is the fifth military leader to seize power in Pakistan's 52-year history. Part may be due to widespread poverty and passivity. But the reaction also supports Gen. Musharraf's contentions about the leadership that was overthrown, the state of the economy and extensive corruption.

Rulers who misrule and loot their nation aren't mourned - that's a lesson few seem to learn. Pakistan seemed ready for a new direction, and, though it has little choice in the matter, appears willing to try this one.

To his credit, Gen. Musharraf took power without bloodshed, has acted unilaterally to reduce military tension with its rival nuclear power, India, and has stressed his belief in a moderate kind of Islam. Moreover, he is saying all the right words about political and economic reform, including a sweep against corruption.

It is, of course, too early to judge what to make of Pakistan's new government. But Gen. Musharraf's words are reassuring. A great many people hope his actions match them.