Washington is Ready to Stop Backing Musharraf
Wajid Shamsul Hasan
August 8: In my last article: "Pakistan getting too hot
for the Generals to handle" (SAT, August 2),
I had underscored that the "justification of evil on the
ground of expediency" by top world leaders, "has converted
God's little earth into a cesspool of intrigue, machinations and
chicanery now even beyond their own control."
was pleaded that if the deepening world disorder has to be arrested,
preference to double standards and selective justice will have
to be given up. Most of the article was concerned about the situation
in Pakistan following the London bombings of the last month that
had once again catapulted Pakistan as the epicenter of global
terrorism. It was emphasis ed that only a total national effort,
mobilization of the masses and the best political brains can steer
Pakistan out of the stormy oceans.
I would be the last person to subscribe to the view that democracy
can only come to Pakistan via Washington, a large number of our
intellectuals/academics and opinion makers believe that it is
the United States that calls the shots in Pakistan and holds the
whip that makes our military establishment wag its tail. Since
it has been the main provider of the shield of legitimacy to military
rulers from the day we had the first martial law in October 1958,
we have seen American preference to generals rather than democratically
elected politicians. Even when it comes to American aid, the ratio
of assistance to the dictators is four times more than the civilian
governments. That, perhaps, has been one of the key reasons that
genuine restoration of democracy in which "we the people"
are the sole arbiters of power remains an elusive dream.
had the first taste of some democracy at the end of Cold War.
Decline and subsequent demise of the Soviet Union had opened floodgates
of change worldwide in favor of democratic movements. It was not
love for democracy among the generals that had seen the restoration
of some semblance of democracy in Pakistan following General Zia's
fatal fall from the sky. They could not impose another martial
law in August 1988 when the entire world had been romancing with
the democratic dream. It would not have fitted in the American
agenda for a democratic Eastern Europe and Central Asian Republics.
They made a tactical retreat, allowed elections, manipulated them
to deny PPP leader Benazir Bhutto an otherwise assured landslide.
assertive democratic Benazir Bhutto, much like her father, was
not their ball game. They had her removed to switch on yet another
round of musical chairs that ended in two terms, actually two
half terms, both to her and Mian Nawaz Sharif as prime ministers.
Throughout these half terms the Praetorian power wielders orchestrated
unproven corruption charges and instability from behind the curtain.
When they saw that time was ripe to strike, they struck and now
in coming October General Pervez Musharraf would be completing
his sixth year as absolute ruler of Pakistan, much more than the
two terms of each elected prime ministers.
Like Zia General Musharraf also used Afghanistan to further implement
the Praetorian dream of converting Pakistan into a garrison state,
a country for the military, of the military and run by the military.
Its intelligence apparatus, ISI-employed Taliban, foreign and
local Jihadis trained and armed by it from the stacked up funds
received in tonnes from the United States during the 80s, created
a situation when Washington would forget all about its commitment
to democracy as a global phenomenon and support to the hilt yet
another military dictator.
After the invasion of Baghdad to restore democratic rights of
the Iraqi people by toppling Saddam Hussain (the only defence
for the Anglo-American invasion in the absence of the weapons
of mass destruction), further democratization of the Palestinian
State Authority and President Bush's Scheme for the democratization
of Middle East, Washington's continued support to a military dictator
in Pakistan, whom it had earlier declared a pariah, has been a
constant source of embarrassment and a big spanner in its move
to garner wider acceptability to democracy as a universal movement.
To correct this colossal biased
selectivity in its foreign policy, it was urged in my last article
that, "Both Washington and London must get down to tell Musharraf
point blank that he cannot combat terrorism by isolating the great
majority of the people in his country by denying it its democratic
right to vote in a government of its choice. The enormous magnitude
of the terrorism requires a national effort to combat it. By keeping
former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif out of
the mainstream politics, he has given an open field to the religious
parties and extremists to call the shots. The recently passed
Hasba Bill by the North Western Frontier Provincial Assembly and
the evils it will unleash in the country should be nipped in the
bud before it acquires the magnitude of a death-knell for the
liberal and democratic forces in Pakistan. Hasba is yet another
step towards Talibanisation of Pakistan and a powerful manifestation
of Mulla-Military alliance."
It was also urged that Washington
would do well to listen to American experts like Stephen P. Cohen
who can see and measure Pakistani population's "growing alienation"
from the United States that feeds into support for extremism.
And this growing anti-Americanism obviously is due to absence
of democracy and a level playing field for popular leaders like
Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif who continue to command
the support of the majority in the masses.
is encouraging to note that after all observations such as Stephen
Cohen's are not falling like seeds on the stony ground in Washington.
It seems they are being heeded to. The recent statement of the
American Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca in Islamabad
amounts to singing the lion's beard in his den. Ms Rocca's declaration
that it was the 'US policy that free and fair elections, a level-playing
field and return to full democracy was the key to long-term prosperity
and stability in Pakistan' shows that all is not all that bad
in Washington and that there is a growing realization where things
have gone wrong.
in her Washington-Islamabad video conference with senior journalists,
Ms Rocca also brought on record that the US administration did
not believe that the President's uniform guaranteed success of
war against international terrorism and that it ensured that Pakistan's
nuclear assets would not fall into the hands of fundamentalists.
"It is a policy we continue to pursue," she said.
is better late than never. It is heartening to see that Washington
has at last started seeing through General Musharraf's game of
misleading the international opinion in insisting that his uniform
was essential for stability and fight against terror. The earlier
the Bush administration realizes the better it would be for Pakistan
and its war on terrorism that political stability comes only with
legitimacy and the writ of the state gets acceptability when it
is backed by general will and not by tin pot generals who confess
to be anorchous without their uniforms.
Moreover, winning war against terrorists and extremists requires
national consensus that comes with democracy alone.
occupies Presidency through Saddam-like referendum and he wields
power on the basis of a contrived, distorted, fractured constitution
that has no legitimacy left. Besides, he is also at war with the
entire civil society as a result of which there is no consensus
behind him. Pakistan and its people can regain their respectability
and honor in the comity of nations when they have a freely and
fairly elected government.
the view spinned by Musharraf's media mongers that Ms Rocca's
pronouncements should be dismissed lightly since she does not
occupy a very high position in the American power hierarchy, her
assertions definitely carry a new message that could not have
been made without higher approval especially when it is much in
line with the earlier statement of the world's most powerful woman,
US Secretary of State Condi Rice, who had underscored the importance
of free and fair elections and genuinely representative government
when she visited Islamabad last.
Rocca's statement definitely assumes special significance due
to the timing and the venue of the video-conference held amidst
wide scale reports of most blatant pre-poll rigging in the local
bodies elections. Ms Rocca's remarks for the need for a level
playing field essential not only for the local bodies elections,
but also for the 2007 general elections, require no interpretation.
Washington was "very clear about it publicly and privately,"
indicating that this concern had been conveyed to the government
also through proper channels. She reassured her commitment when
she said the US was providing technical assistance with observers
along with the rest of the international community. No wonder
many in Islamabad are having sleepless nights.
This wind of change has been widely welcomed in Pakistan. People
would acknowledge generously the return of democracy no matter
how it comes. However, our military establishment, to save the
people of embarrassment of receiving democracy delivered in an
American gift wrap, should rise to the occasion and come to terms
with the genuine political leadership that lives in exile per
force, hold earliest free and fair elections and go back to the
barracks where they belong, with some respect and dignity intact
rather than go with mud on its face.