Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Price of Dictators in Pakistan

The press is reporting that the Bush administration is in something of a quandary concerning Pakistan. Even within its own ranks there are, from former officials particularly, serious criticism about the Bush policy of aiding the military dictator, General Musharraf, in order to fight bin Laden and his terrorist group (who, the press of course fails to mention, came into existence in the very Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas where they are now operating in the 1980s with CIA money and support).

Since this is our "free," aka commercial capitalist press, we must read between the lines in order to grasp the facts that these reporters know but really can't say. Musharraf has been in effect running a scam on the Bush administration for years as have many right-wing dictators whom the U.S. government supports. He takes large sums of money from the U.S. to support the "war against terrorism" even though his security services and military are heavily infiltrated with supporters bin Laden and the Taliban. He uses the money for whatever he wants, including continued support for terrorist campaigns in Indian Kashmir. He keeps under "house arrest" Dr. Khan, who with (Indian sources believe) developed the Pakistani atom weapons program (weapons that directly threaten India, and if they fall into the hands of bin Laden's friends possibly many other nations, including the U.S.), limiting U.S. access to Khan, even though Khan has sold nuclear information and technology to a number of nations, which potentially threatens an incalculable number of human lives.

Musharraf is now clearly a liability (a "bad puppet" as a Vietnamese representative once said to Henry Kissinger about the U.S. supported Saigon military dictator during the Vietnam war negotiations) whom the U.S. would like to get rid of, at least put in some power sharing arrangement with Benazir Bhutto (who by the way is no prize package either in both her willingness to serve imperialist aims and to continue anti-Indian policies that contribute to instability in the region). But that is not so easy to do. Bhutto was almost killed this week when she returned to Pakistan. Musharraf's highly touted and, from anyone who knows the situation phony attempts to develop aka purchase a peace process in the Taliban controlled tribal areas has openly collapsed. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, a right-wing military dictator, sinister clerical reactionary forces within its borders, and nuclear weapons that make it potentially one of the most dangerous places on earth.

What can be done, a question that our "free" aka capitalist media doesn't ask. First, a rational, much less progressive U.S. government should conclude that Pakistan is no ally of the U.S. in any sense, but a low level henchmen which supports U.S. imperialist policies in the hope that it can get a piece of the imperialist action.

India is, with all of its problems, a liberal democracy. Pakistan isn't. Pakistan was created after WWII through a partition of India which was itself the work of British imperialism and the conservative Muslim League of India, a partition which has had longterm destructive consequences but which cannot for the foreseeable future be reversed.

What can be done is for the U.S. and the larger world community through the United Nations to encourage the development of economic relations and an eventual larger South Asian economic union that would bring India and Pakistan together along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (which was formed out of what had previously been East Pakistan) together, an effective deterrent to military and nuclear arms races and potential disasters. Nuclear disarmament, not only for South Asia but for all of the nuclear powers should be a major point for U.S. policy. This would cut the legs from right-wing Muslims in Pakistan (and right-wing Hindus in India for that matter) who have a vested interest in instigating political hatreds and violence.

Of course, the poverty of Pakistan, whose record of development has been vastly inferior to India by any standard, can be addressed through such an internationally support economic reconciliation which would yield a larger peace dividend, particularly for Pakistan.

Economic development in Pakistan is and will continue to be a cruel joke as long as the world community is largely absent and U.S. "aid" is aid to a corrupt military regime which, in the tradition of military regimes in many places, runs the country as a racket for itself. Regional development with the assistance of United Nations agencies is the key to any workable policy here. Also China, which unfortunately has had its own significant territorial conflicts with India, has an important role to play here as part of the larger international community. Improved political and economic relations between China and India would advance tremendously an overall South Asian peace process.

While these are long-range solutions, they are genuine global solutions to the problems of South Asia and ones which will yield not only a peace dividend for the people of the region but greatly undermine the terrorist groups for whom Pakistan especially remains a major base. The price of peace in Pakistan is a lot cheaper and a far better investment than the price of supporting a military dictator like Musharraf or any likely successor, since the history of Pakistan,with a few notable exceptions, has been a succession of military dictators.

Norman Markowitz

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