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

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Growing Nightmare In Pakistan

Over the weekend, Pervez Musharraf agreed to set elections by January 9, perhaps leading Buah Administration "elections=democracy" officials to nod in agreement and move on to Iran. But this is a meaningless gesture. If Musharraf still has the country under emergency rule, and he hasn't committed to dropping it, I don't see how elections could be fair or free (an election with no Constitution or court system?). And the opposition parties know this, and have vowed to boycott any sham election.

Two of Pakistan’s bigger opposition parties said today they would probably boycott the parliamentary elections due to be held in early January if the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, persisted in holding the vote while still maintaining emergency rule.

However, the leader of the biggest opposition party, Benazir Bhutto, has not yet said whether she would pull her party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, out of the election.

On Sunday, Ms. Bhutto said General Musharraf’s announcement that elections would go ahead in January was a positive though insufficient step. Today she assumed a slightly tougher tone, suggesting her negotiations with General Musharraf had come to an end.

“We cannot work with anyone who has suspended the Constitution, imposed emergency rule and oppressed the judiciary,” she said. “We are saying ‘no’ to any more talks.”

Bhutto is an opportunist. She'd probably go ahead with elections if she thought they had any import. But it's clear that they would elect nothing more than a figurehead.

This is shaping up to be very much like the Iranian situation in 1978-79; an isolated dictator with little control over anything but the military, against a more and more angry populace. This should scare everyone, as it suggests that the anger against the United States and the anger against Musharraf is merging. It is very familiar.

It takes almost no effort to find people who are angry with Pervez Musharraf on the streets of this bustling city. The Pakistani leader's name comes up quickly in casual conversation, yoked with unprintable adjectives and harsh denunciations of the emergency rule he has imposed.

But dig just a little deeper and another target of resentment surfaces: Musharraf's richest, staunchest and most powerful patron, the United States.

"We blame the U.S. directly for keeping us under the rule of the military," said Arfan Ghani, a 54-year-old professor of architecture. Musharraf, who heads Pakistan's army, is just "another dictator," Ghani told an American reporter, "serving the interests of your country."

That makes an environment ripe for Islamic revolution. Very scary.

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