As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Coup II: The Re-Coupening

It looks like the Pakistani people are becoming restless from this attempt to curb their fundamental liberties.

Police fired tear gas and clubbed thousands of lawyers protesting President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule, as Western allies threatened to review aid to the troubled Muslim nation. Opposition groups put the number of arrests at 3,500, although the government reported half that [...]

Under intense pressure from the United States and other Western allies to hold elections as scheduled in January, Musharraf said Monday he would relinquish control of the military and return the country to "the same track as we were moving" but he gave no indication when the vote would take place.

"I am determined to remove my uniform once we correct these pillars — the judiciary, the executive, and the parliament," Musharraf was quoted by state-run Pakistan Television as telling foreign ambassadors Monday.

"I can assure you there will be harmony ... confidence will come back into the government, into law enforcement agencies and Pakistan will start moving again on the same track as we were moving."

It's quite shocking how brazen this all is, although when you're from a country that has a history of uprisings and coups it's perhaps less so. I would have thought that Musharraf would have used militant attacks as a pretext to seize control and crush dissent. But he's actually been very out in the open about "correcting these pillars" - admitting that this is about bending the judiciary to his will and little else. All of his actions have served to put down the independent judiciary, not the "terrorist threat."

And because this is a very honest rationale Musharraf is making for his dictatorship, anger at his allies in the United States is brewing on the street:

The most common feeling toward the U.S. I have encountered is a kind of anger mixed with disappointment. Pakistanis are angry at the U.S. and consider it hypocritical because it has consistently supported dictatorship in Pakistan. Many are also baffled and furious because they see clearly the complicity of part of the Pakistani security forces with the Taliban on both sides of the border and cannot comprehend U.S. continued support for that same military.

They see a weak reaction by the U.S. to the virtual martial law decreed by General Musharraf. In particular they hear U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates say, "We are reviewing all of our assistance programs, although we are mindful not to do anything that would undermine ongoing counterterrorism efforts." What they hear is, the U.S. will review its support for education and health programs, but it will continue its massive subsidy (an estimated $10 billion per year) to cover the cost of operations by the Pakistan military: the same military that has declared a pseudo-emergency (in reality, martial law), under which protesting lawyers have been beaten and hundreds of non-violent democratic political leaders arrested, while the militants continue their campaigns without hindrance.

And it's also true that, if we didn't outsource so much of the problem with Al Qaeda and the militant tribes in Waziristan to the Pakistanis, we would be less reliant on them and more able to have a strong hand in demanding the return to democratic rule. Not to mention the fact that a stronger and safer Afghanistan, one secured by a military that isn't spread thin in Iraq, wouldn't allow for a staging area inside Pakistan for the Taliban.

Musharraf is hanging on by a thread. The problem, however, is that the pro-democracy reform movements don't have an inspiring amount of leadership at the top, either, making the remote possibility of an Islamist takeover more likely.

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