Uncle Pervy Does It Again

by Joshua Foust on 11/4/2007


Pervez Musharraf, whose only crime is that he loves democracy too much to allow it to flourish, has suspended the Pakistani Constitution, and proceeded with arrests. Oh whom, you might ask?

The government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, making no concessions a day after seizing emergency powers, rounded up leading opposition figures and said Sunday that parliamentary elections could be delayed for as long as a year.

Security forces were reported to have rounded up about 500 opposition party figures, lawyers and human rights advocates Sunday, and about a dozen privately television news stations remained off the air. International broadcasters, including the BBC and CNN, were also cut.

Oh. I thought he would have suspended the last vestiges of representative government in the country to fight extremism? Not so much—his own advisors seem to think it was because he didn’t like those activist judges we hear so much about here in the U.S.

Musharraf made the declaration Saturday in reaction to what he said was judicial activism by the state’s high court. Musharraf has been tussling with the Supreme Court since at least March, when he removed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, citing judicial misconduct.

The Supreme Court — which reinstated Chaudhry in July in what many called a political blow to Musharraf — was amid hearing arguments from opposition leaders who said that Musharraf’s victory in the October elections should be overturned because Musharraf was not eligible to serve a third term while heading the country’s military.

And where, in all of this, is transparent government advocate Benazir Bhutto? Playing the martyr, as always.

I have long claimed that the rise of extremism and militancy in Pakistan could not happen without support from elements within the current administration. My return to my country poses a threat to the forces of extremism that have thrived under a dictatorship. They want to stop the restoration of democracy at any price. They have exploited a poor, desperate, and powerless people and allowed extremists the right environment in which to flourish.

Of course, as Steve Coll meticulously recorded, and as the International Crisis Group has been alleging for years, Ms. Bhutto played a key role in the ascension and influence of those very same extremist and militant movements. It may very well be that at the time—the mid-90’s, when no one really considered the Taliban of importance beyond Afghanistan—she believed them the only force to gain control and influence of her neighbor. But to write off the very real, and very significant, role she played in the creation, nurturing, and support of the very militancy she now decries once it no longer serves her is a bit childish.

Despite this obvious punting of responsibility, Bhutto is right about the best solution to the problem: regular, transparent, free, and fair elections. The deep structural limitations of Pakistan’s army and society make eliminating that militancy on anything less than decades at best a long shot (and most likely impossible), but it is a long shot that will be helped along by proper, transparent government. Musharraf is the enemy of self-rule: indeed, his own rule violates every tenet of it. A generally not atrocious dictator is nevertheless still a dictator. Musharraf is coming to resemble an Arab kleptocrat more and more by the day—right down to the tacit support of his own government, which he may or may not control in the guise of the ISI, of various armed Islamic groups—and he sits on nuclear weapons. Musharraf is preferable to the chaos of Islamic militancy in charge, but that is not much of a standard, especially when the problem prompting the crackdown is not, as one would expect, something like the fighting around Swat, a once-calm and relatively liberal area now under severe threat by Taliban-like extremists, but whining over an independent judiciary.

And where is Condoleezza Rice? She said the U.S. “may review aid” to Pakistan. “It is in the best interests of Pakistan and the Pakistani people for there to be a prompt return to the constitutional course, for there to be an affirmation that elections will be held for a new parliament,” she said.

Well, of course it is. Our military relationship with Pakistan, which trumps any diplomatic relationship anyway, will continue unchanged—just as it almost did when Musharraf convinced Anthony Zinni the power seizure was in everyone’s best interest the last time he did this in 1999.

Update: Don’t expect to see anything useful on cable news. Yesterday, I caught CNN airing Bhutto complaining about how much of a victim she is with no comment from the botoxed anchorwoman, and on Fox News one can find frustratingly uncritical acceptance of Richard Miniter’s raving lunacy about the bombing situation of last week. Miniter and a very bloodthirsty Mark Steyn both advocate the “bombing campaign that worked so well in 2001” against “those same tribes” in Afghanistan be repeated in Pakistan—as in, we invade yet another country.

It simply makes me too angry for words, the sheer volume of ardent idiocy running loose in the U.S. Don’t even get me started on what the right-o-sphere is saying in reaction, such as National Review Online saying dictatorship isn’t such a bad thing (NRO has a long history of lionizing Musharraf). It makes for a stark contrast with the Pakistan Policy Blog, which is aggregating information without the sensationalizing and tabloidism.

Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use

Previous post:

Next post: