The week’s tumultuous events in Pakistan have proven that the United States’ role in the global fight against terrorism extends far beyond the borders of Iraq.

As opposition to the current state of emergency mounts, the United States has a historic opportunity to seize the momentum of the still- fledgling democracy movement by making it clear that we support an end to military rule — what is, in effect, martial law — in Pakistan.

While Pakistan has been a loyal if sometimes hesitant ally of the United States under the leadership of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, his misjudgments of late — including his transparent effort to maintain political power even if by force of arms against legitimate political opposition such as Benazir Bhutto — have eroded his support among the public. In order for Pakistan to sustain a long-term fight against terrorism, there must be a leader with a public mandate.

If the United States does not take this risk of pushing for fair and immediate elections, we run the greater risk of fueling Pakistan’s militant voices and setting the stage for chaos in the streets or even, potentially, the emergence of another regime like the Taliban in Afghanistan or Iran. That is a risk we cannot afford to take. The success of the War on Terror – and the security of the United States – will depend upon the legitimacy of leadership in Pakistan.