Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Destroying Democracy in Pakistan is Not an Option

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Nov. 6, 2007 - As I write this commentary, Pakistan is imploding.

General/President/Dictator, Pervez Musharraf, has suspended the constitution of the nation. The supreme court, and parliament, have both been dissolved. Martial law has been declared, and more than 1,500 political opposition leaders, lawyers, and judges have been arrested. Thousands of citizens are battling police in the streets of Islamabad, and other cities across the country.

The chaos of constitutional crisis and autocracy now verge on catastrophe – a catastrophe in an unstable nuclear weapons state that, if left unaddressed, could spiral into the virtual disintegration of the nation itself.

All dictators have their own made-for-mass-consumption reasons for attempting to squash the fundamental democratic rights of their own people.

In the case of General Musharraf, the big, public card in his geopolitical hand is the (alleged) war against Islamic 'extremists' in Pakistan's remote northwest region. This is, of course, the primary glue that binds Pakistan to the global "war against terror", led and orchestrated by the United States.

The 'war against terror' is also the single most important factor in maintaining the personal relationship between General Musharraf and the ruling circles of the U.S. government, including his personal relationships with President Bush and Vice-President Cheyney, who guarantee the unrestricted flow of money and weapons to their Pakistani 'ally'.

But this time, the General may have overplayed his 'anti-terrorism' hand in his brutal attempt to end any semblance of real democratic rule in Pakistan.

By dismantling Pakistan's national judiciary, and throwing hundreds of political opponents in jail, Musharraf is saying, in effect, that any challenge to his autocratic rule only emboldens the supporters of Al Queda and the Taliban.

Is it in the national interest of the United States to tolerate Musharraf's attempt to destroy his opposition, and the democratic institutions of his country? The answer is an emphatic NO.

If left unchecked, the current crackdown will only result in a bloody civil conflict in Pakistan - possibly even civil war. If this happens, there is no guarantee that the entire Pakistani military will remain loyal to Gen. Musharraf. And any internal rebellion will leave open the unthinkable possibility that the control of Pakistan's small atomic arsenal might become compromised.

But a more probable scenario is the diminished possibility of an open, democratic electoral transition to a representative civilian government that is capable of addressing the myriad of divisions and contradictions in Pakistan. And that would leave the business of government to those political elements in Pakistan with the most guns - and the most money behind them.

It is unthinkable that Muslims, and real democrats of any description, would allow Pakistan to devolve into becoming another Somalia - and in this case, a Somalia with nuclear weapons.

The United States, which has supplied Musharraf with weapons, foreign aid, and international political cover, must not be allowed to remain on the sidelines while things in Pakistan become more bloody and desperate.

If America truly means what it proclaims to the world about respect for democracy and human rights, it must do now what is absolutely necessary to safeguard both.

The United States must immediately halt all military and foreign assistance to the government of Gen. Musharraf, and use all its power and prestige to persuade Gen. Musharraf to resign from office, thereby ending his personal onslaught against popular rule in Pakistan.

As I have stated previously, it is time for Gen. Musharraf to go. And that time is now more urgent than ever.

Thousands Face Down Pakistani Police
Musharraf Imposes Emergency Rule
Text of Emergency Declaration
Timeline: Pakistan Emergency Rule
General Moves Deeper Into Labyrinth
World Leaders Respond (Quotes)
Musharraf Targets Key Opponents
UK Urges Restraint

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