Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Higher Price for Dictatorship In Pakistan

General Pervez Musharraf, the latest in a long line of Pakistani
dictators supported by the U.S., has declared of "state of emergency"
and is busily arresting opposition leaders, journalists, attorneys, and
others. In truly lunatic speech, Musharraf, widely regarded as a
corrupt henchman of the Bush administration, strengthened that view by,
among other things, quoting Abraham Lincoln's suspension of Habeas
corpus during the Civil War to support his position(as an historian, I
might mention that the elections which Musharraf is once more postponing
for Pakistan were not canceled during the Civil War in the U.S.)
Musharraf went on to say that the martial law decree had as its goal the
preservation of "the democratic transition that I initiated eight years
back," a surreal statement which pretty much stands by itself as a
commentary on the regime. Finally, repeating what has been a right-wing
mantra in the U.S. since the Supreme Court's anti-segregation decisions
in the 1950s, Musharraf went on to denounce the "judicial activism"
which had "demoralized the security forces" in the country. What he is
talking about most of all is the courageous Pakistani chief Justice who
has stood up to a dictatorship which sought to frame and imprison him,
issuing rulings in defense of both elemental civil liberties and
democratic rights.

The U.S. government is calling weakly for the restoration of "democracy"
in Pakistan. but is treading very lightly on the question, as is U.S. media.
Given the administration's threats against socialist Cuba as a
"totalitarian tyranny" and its attempt to portray the clerical
reactionary regime in Iran as a new Soviet Union, representing a
military-nuclear threat to the "free world," its relationship with the
Mursharraf dictatorship, whom it has bribed for years as its ally in the
struggle against the Taliban and Al Quaida(both of whom now have their
main base on Pakistani soil, shows both its colossal hypocrisy and

Bush has been loyal to Musharraf as he was to Karl Rove, Attorney
General Alberto Gonzalez, and others from his Texas entourage, who
eventually left government after defying congressional Committees and
flirting with prosecution in the courts. Musharraf, faced with a court
decision concerning the legality of his plan to run for re-election, has
for the moment solved the political problem by arresting five hundred
opposition leaders, cutting(the press has reported) telephone wires to
the capital, and threatening to forcibly silence the judiciary. His
actions will not alleviate the crisis in the Afghanistan- Pakistan
border area. It can only make that crisis worse. The U.S. position in
the region, where he has long scammed both the both administration and
the military to provide him with billions in aid and weapons while he
fights a publicity war against "terrorism," can only grow much worse as
Pakistanis who support elemental civil rights and liberties and the rule
of law will join the ultra-right religious elements in the country in
seeing the U.S. as their enemy, the force behind the tyranny that daily
degrades the quality of their lives.

What should be done? First the United Nations should immediately take
up the matter. As I write this article, I do not know Pakistan's status
today with the British Commonwealth, which it joined in the 1950s, but
since it was the British government in alliance with the Muslim League
that set the stage for the partition of India which created Pakistan(and
decades of conflict) it should immediately discuss the matter and take
actions. Sanctions against the Musharraf regime by the international
community are clearly called for.

As for the U.S., progressives should immediately call for a end to all
military and economic aid to the Musharraf regime. That Pakistan is a
nuclear military power(as Iran is not, for example) only adds to the
overall danger.

Progressives, in condemning Musharraf's actions and calling for
sanctions and other actions by the international community in defense of
the people of Pakistan against the dictatorship, should also begin to
address the need for a new U.S. foreign policy for South Asia generally,
one which will abandon completely the cold war derived policy of using
Pakistani dictatorships as military henchmen and begin to work with
India and the other regional states to achieve economic integration and
development of the region while fostering policies of disarmament and
peace. in short, supporting "democracy" by deeds not empty hypocritical
Norman Markowitz


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