People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 11, 2007
Pakistan’s Beleaguered General
GENERAL Pervez Musharraf has imposed Emergency and suspended the Constitution in Pakistan. This has led to virtual martial law with the wholesale removal of Supreme Court judges, gagging of the media and arrests of hundreds of political party activists, lawyers and others who oppose the Emergency.
Musharraf has taken this authoritarian step apprehending that the Supreme Court would rule his election as President in October as illegal. As Chief of Staff of the Army, General Musharraf has pre-empted such a decision by a Provisional Constitutional Order which is the device used in the past for martial law.
Belying his earlier assurances, Musharraf has avoided restoration of full democracy in Pakistan. In the recent period, Musharraf has found himself beleaguered with his support rapidly ebbing away. Musharraf got himself elected through a federal parliament and provincial legislatures whose term was nearly over. Fresh elections were to be held in January 2008. Musharraf’s credibility is at its lowest level among the people of Pakistan as he is widely seen to be propped up by the United States. Bush enlisted Musharraf in the “war on terror”. The United States has provided $ 10 billion aid since 2001 to help fight the Taliban and the Al Qaeda elements. But parallel to the situation in Afghanistan, where there is a resurgence of the Taliban forces, the border region of Pakistan – the North-West Frontier Province and Waziristan – have become the centres for Taliban and extremist activities. The latest showdown with the fundamentalist forces is in Swat province. These have exposed the vulnerabilities of the Pakistan army.
Ever since the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was removed in April, the whole range of opposition political parties have been protesting against the authoritarian rule of Musharraf. The United States was behind the moves for an entente between Musharraf and the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Benazir Bhutto. These negotiations were capable of harming Bhutto’s credibility at a time when popular opinion is against the Musharraf regime. The perilous situation was underlined by the horrific bomb attacks on Bhutto’s convoy on her return which killed over 130 people.
The hypocrisy of the Bush administration which trumpets its goal of upholding democracy around the world is, once again, exposed by these events in Pakistan. Wherever, US interests are involved, it has no compunction in propping up military dictators. Talk of sanctions are reserved for only those countries who do not fall in line. Condoleeza Rice and President Bush have expressed their unhappiness at the “extra constitutional” steps taken by Musharraf. Rice went on to say that “The US has never put all its chips on Musharraf”. This itself shows that the US may consider the General expendable. But the United States has no other option but to continue to support the General. Its aim now is to convert him into a “civilian” President and to see that the parliament elections are held as scheduled in January. But there are many imponderables in the situation. Both its favoured ally and the “war against terror” have run into serious difficulties.
The solution lies not in some US-sponsored cosmetic “regime change”. The people of Pakistan must be allowed to have their say. For this, the Emergency must be called off, full democratic rights and civil liberties restored and free and fair elections held. The President should be elected only by the new parliament and provincial legislatures under the Constitution.
A signal lesson is there from this episode in Pakistan for all the countries and peoples of South Asia. Democracy and national sovereignty cannot be assured by becoming an instrument of US imperialism’s geo-political strategy.