Friday, January 25, 2008

The Shah of Pakistan

By Malou Innocent
From the Cato Institute
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; 8:45 PM

America's most vulnerable ally in the war on terror is Pakistan. But our alliance with the nuclear-armed Islamic state may be exacerbating that country's instability.

For eight years, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf has delayed, deferred and ultimately denied his citizens the right to freely choose their next leader. U.S. policymakers and analysts concede that Musharraf's autocratic rule is a problem but fear that whoever replaces him may be worse.

Once before in that part of the world, Washington backed a high-profile ruler without regard to his constituents' wishes: Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran. The result was a fiasco for American foreign policy. The Shah's legacy should caution U.S. policymakers that allying too openly with an unpopular leader could have dangerous repercussions.

From 1953 to 1979, Iranian life under the Shah was dreadfully brutal. Through SAVAK, the Shah's secret police and intelligence service, political opponents were routinely tortured. Methods included electric shock, nail extraction, insertion of broken glass into the rectum, and "cooking," which entailed strapping a victim to a bed of wiring that was then heated, cooking the victim alive. The Shah's repression was systematic and unyielding, but he was also America's principal strategic ally in the region.

President Dwight Eisenhower gave the Shah millions of dollars in emergency aid for his complicity in Operation Ajax, the U.S.¿British coup that overthrew the democratically elected Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, a decisive turning point in Iran's history. President Lyndon Johnson, who mistakenly praised the Shah for "winning progress without violence and without any bloodshed," signed-off on a six-year, $600 million military sales credit package for the Shah. And President Richard Nixon offered the autocrat the right to buy any non-nuclear U.S. weapons system without congressional or Pentagon review, a deal later described by Time magazine as "carte blanche" for the Shah.

For Pakistan, unwavering support and an open aid spigot are rewards for Musharraf's assistance in apprehending terrorists. After the fall of Afghanistan's Taliban government in late 2001, the United States authorized over $10 billion in aid to Pakistan, allotted in $100 million monthly payments plus an additional $200 million in annual payments. The aid is meant to help the Pakistani military retard insurgent gains in the Pashtun-dominated North-West Frontier Province as well as combat the spread of Taliban fighters in the lawless tribal border regions of Waziristan.

Like America's overt support for the Shah, assisting Musharraf is risky for several reasons:
First, America's assistance to a dictator increases the power of that country's extremists. In Iran, the Shah's brutality and corruption fed deep-seated resentment among the Iranian citizenry, a resentment that led to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini, the emergence of an Islamist regime and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in 1979. Iranians wanted to end the Shah's despotism, a despotism they perceived was largely underwritten by American aid. For Pakistanis, a similar anger resonates today.

A poll released this month [ed: Jan 7] by the United States Institute for Peace and the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes found that a majority of Pakistanis favor a more democratic political system. While Pakistani voters are largely unsympathetic to al Qaeda and the Taliban, Islamists in that country exploited anti-American sentiment at the ballot box in 2002. An alliance of six fundamentalist parties called Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, won 52 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, becoming the third largest bloc in Pakistan's parliament.

A second danger in allying overtly with a dictator is that U.S. policies now stand at odds with the wishes of the Pakistani people. Musharraf's dismissal last March of Pakistani Supreme Court justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry spawned waves of pro-democracy protests throughout the country. Despite the Pakistani public's pervasive feeling of disenfranchisement, U.S. aid continued to flow, further cementing anti-American attitudes and feeding a unifying fervor of greater political self-determination. The more overtly we aid Musharraf, the more Pakistanis will feel that their political independence is being denied by political pressures from Washington.
The third danger of supporting an unpopular autocrat is that U.S. interests would be jeopardized should Musharraf fall. If the United States continues to work for Musharraf and against his opponents, those opponents likely would give little attention to U.S. interests if they come to power.

One alternative to backing Musharraf is to push Pakistan toward democracy; an option that many believe would address Pakistan's political problems. But this solution presumes that the United States can micro-manage Pakistan's internal politics. We cannot. Pakistan's problems are complicated, deep and systemic in nature. There is also a legitimate fear that pushing democracy onto Pakistan may bring to power a civilian leader who¿unlike Musharraf¿may not have the loyalty of the Pakistani army, chief of army staff, and the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence. That loyalty troika is critical for any Pakistani leader to succeed. Even the late Benazir Bhutto was sacked twice as prime minister, in part because she did not have the loyalty of the Pakistani military. Many generals even made it a point not to salute her.

So what is left for U.S. policy toward Pakistan? History provides us with a practical alternative to either supporting Musharraf or trying to identify and back a democratic successor: the British colonial policy of masterly inactivity. Throughout the mid- and late-19th century, the British government in India assumed the role of non-interference in the internal affairs of the Pashtun tribes in what is today the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of modern-day Pakistan. The British assumed this policy because interference only exacerbated conflict and increased anti-British sentiment. American policymakers should assume a similar role by becoming more modest in their ambitions for Pakistan.

Rather than push, prod and encourage Pakistan to do what the United States wants, U.S. policymakers should not interfere in that country's political affairs. Given that country's proximity to the war in Afghanistan, the cauldron of conflict in its border region, and the fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands, some continued cooperation with whatever government holds power in Islamabad is important. But that does not mandate that Washington become embroiled in Pakistan's political dynamics.

The United States once earned the title of the "Great Satan" by propping up the Shah of Iran. We should not go down that same path by propping up the "Shah" of Pakistan.

The Camaraderie of Tyrants

By Dr. Haider Mehdi

An ancient fable from an ancient time goes as follows: A Wazir (a minister) informed the Raja (state ruler) that a thief had entered the town. The Raja ordered the immediate arrest of all people in the town. The Wazir explained the rationale of the act as “prevention is better than the cure – no people, no possibility of a future theft.” The moral of the story: absolute autocratic rule lacks absolute wisdom.

Another similar story is: a Wazir informed the Raja that a Dunda Chor (a thief with one hand) had entered the state and stolen some royal belongings. The Raja ordered that the right hands of all able-bodied male citizens of the state to be amputated at once. The Wazir explained the logic of the Raja’s act as a collective punishment of the entire citizenry that would teach them that stealing would not be tolerated in the riyasat (the state). The moral of the story: tyrannical rulers employ wickedness and naked force with senseless brutality.

In hindsight, the political behavior of George W. Bush, the American President, and Tony Blair, the British ex-Prime Minister, was very much reminiscent of the poorly conceived ill-wisdom of the past at the time of the 9/11 incident. But then, the two of them symbolize the camaraderie of tyrants. Acting with vicious intents and senseless brutality, the two Western leaders have caused an unprecedented “holocaust” in Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated 1.5 million civilians have been killed in these two countries and an entire civilization has been decimated. All of this human carnage has been taking place (on the orders of Bush-Blair) in retaliation for the alleged attack on the Twin Towers in New York City. And now, there is a global outcry that posits the 9/11 as an inside job orchestrated by the US Vice-President with the help of the CIA, Mossad, and possible involvement of some other countries whose leadership is close and friendly to the US incumbent administration. Pakistan’s leadership and its military intelligence services have been allegedly implicated, rightly or wrongly, by certain political circles in this context.

How many more Muslims will have to die, and how many more “holocausts” in Islamic nations will have to take place to satisfy the blood-lust of the American president and his collaborators of like-minded people to avenge the alleged 9/11? How long will this ill-wisdom and wickedness of the tyrants persist and prevail? How long will it endure and expand? How long will Muslims suffer from the atrocities of the camaraderie of tyrants?

But let us not forget that George W. Bush did not have the benefit of an ancient civilization or history to learn wisdom from ancient fables. Tony Blair, dreaming of a re-insurgence of the British imperial past and a colonial glory for himself, simply transformed himself into “Bush’s poodle” – one could not expect political wisdom from someone with such a skewed world view.

However, the paramount irony of this entire equation of the camaraderie of tyrants is the implicit and willing participation of the Pakistani leadership in this global charade of the 9/11 and its aftermath. It was President Bush who, like the insane Raja, had called for universal collective punishment by blurting out the most lunatic and outrageous political statement at the start of the 21st century: “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” (implying that any nation not with the US is the enemy). How much more absurd can political conduct be?

But the point driven here is: The Pakistani General, the Chief of the Army staff and the Head of State at the time, unlike George W. Bush, had the benefit of an ancient civilization and of an ancient land where various religions, innumerable philosophies, cultural diversities, ethnic and linguistic varieties, and above all, a deeply rooted respect for moral judgments have been cherished endlessly. In an absolute disregard of the historical high moral claims and implicit cultural commitment demanded of the Head of State, the General instantly capitulated and gave away every bit of national pride as well as national sovereignty simply because of a telephone call from General Colin Powell. Think about the enormity of such a national surrender by the Pakistani leader. In the name of Realpolitik, the Pakistani General-cum-Head of the State abandoned national socio-cultural imperatives and rushed in to join the scandalous community and the camaraderie of the tyrants. However, it is not surprising because that is precisely what the successive military dictators have been doing in Pakistan all along – and exactly for these reasons, the military dictatorship must come to an end now.

Tyrants use physical force (military-police) and positional power against the will of the people. Neither history nor a profound understanding of national chaos and its political solutions are relevant to tyrants. Tyrants wish to prevail under all circumstances and in all conditions. Loss of human life and carnage is considered a natural constituent of the political process. Power and the pursuit of power is the fundamental nucleus of the political ideology that drives the tyrant’s thrusts towards omnipotent imposition of political will over an entire citizenry. Political accommodation and dialogue are essentially escape routes when the struggle for power maintenance is shaken from within the tyrant’s own judgmental weakness. Innumerable political episodes and events are testament to the fact that tyrants are known to abandon political compromises at will. Adversaries are exploited, deceived and moved out of the way in pursuit of seeking unyielding power. No wonder then the opposition parties’ political equations in Pakistan vis-à-vis the incumbent president are managed in such a way by the state power that these political equations continue to change on regular intervals and within specified patterns. Now that Benazir Bhutto is out of the political drama, a new paradigm for an invincible power struggle for the incumbent presidency is clearly visible on the political horizons of Pakistan. Isn’t it surprising that the General (retd), instead of seeking popular mandate from within the country (as it should be in a democratic set-up), is now in Brussels to bolster his credibility with the West in the hope of continuing ruling his beleaguered nation indomitably and unilaterally.

A highly respected columnist wrote the following in the context of this emerging scenario in Pakistan: “As Musharraf plans to start a four-day visit to Europe today, and all the attendant publicly blitz that will focus on the unstable Waziristans, an enemy in the Hindukush will be an all too convenient campaign tool for the Republican Party campaign. Do the simplistic Sharifs know the pitfalls of playing this complicated game?”

This is a clear warning to Shahbaz Sharif not to make the same mistake that Benazir Bhutto made. Indeed, the civil society in Pakistan will not abandon the movement for the restoration of judiciary to pre-November 2007 status. Shahbaz Sharif should be mindful that a meaningful transition to democracy in Pakistan will not come with the PML-N sharing power with the incumbent president – the future of democratic restoration in this nation is tied-up with fundamental changes in the present status-quo that prevails today. No question about it – let the Sharif brothers not disappoint the masses!

Another story circulating these days is: A man caught a fish and asked his wife to cook it. She said she could not. “Why not?” the irritated husband inquired. She replied that she did not have atta, oil, electricity or gas. The man took the fish and threw it back into the river. As soon as the fish hit the water, it popped up again and shouted, “Je-yoo Musharraf!” (Long live Musharraf.)

Given the ground realities in the country, I wonder what the entire nation has to thank Musharraf for – Benazir was murdered, streets in Lahore, Islamabad, Wazistan and Balochistan are blood-soaked, judges are under house arrest, the constitution has been repeatedly violated, the Pakistani army is at war with its own citizens – but above all, the majority of Pakistanis have never had it so bad ever before…!

Can we really say “Je-yoo Musharraf”? I guess not… certainly not!

The Nation, January 25, 2008

Desperate Palestinians blow up the wall in Gaza

Though unrelated to the events in our country, the situation is a vivid reminder of the injustices being committed in other parts of the world and the valiant resistance being waged against them.

Police violently break up anti-Musharraf protest in Islamabad

Riot police used tear gas and batons here on Thursday to disperse hundreds of protesters chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf, AFP reporters witnessed.Around 400 people, including lawyers and supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) screamed "Death to Musharraf" when police stopped them from visiting former chief justice of Pakistan.

President Musharraf deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry under emergency rule in November last year. Chaudhry remains under house arrest in Islamabad.

The protesters tried to break through a police barricade outside the upmarket Marriott Hotel, which is near Chaudhry's house, but were forced back by baton-wielding police who then fired tear gas.

Waving black flags, the protesters regrouped and chanted: "We will lay down our lives for the chief justice."Former premier Nawaz Sharif was prevented from meeting Justice Chaudhry on Wednesday.

Pashtoon Leader Baitullah Mehsud Did Not Kill Benazir Bhutto

Militant 'Did Not Murder Bhutto'
By Syed Shoaib Hasan

(BBC News) - A Pakistani Senator says [Pakistani-Pashtoon] leader Baitullah Mehsud was not involved in the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Islamabad and Washington have both blamedMr. Mehsud - who is based in the troubled region of South Waziristan[Pakistan] - for the assassination of Ms. Bhutto.
But [Mohammad] Saleh Shah [Qureshi], a [FATA] Senator who represents Waziristan, says Mr. Mehsud was not "in any way" involved.
Waziristan is now the scene of fighting between the Armyand [Pakistani-Pashtoons].
Military officials say that [Pakistani-Pashtoons] and security forces have been involved in heavy exchanges of fire overnight on Tuesday.
'No Foreign Fighters'
"Baitullah is not involved in Benazir's assassination in any way," Mr.Shah told the BBC [British Brodcasting Corporation].
"He has communicated this to me through his spokesman."
Mr. Shah also rejects recent [U.S. Central Intelligence Agency] CIA claims that Mr. Mehsud is involved with "Al-Qaeda".
"I don't know where these [false] stories come from - about foreign fighters in the area," he said.
"I have never seen any Arab or Uzbeks in the area."
The [illegal] government Pervez Musharraf, however, remains convinced and has stepped up operations in South Waziristan.
Mr. Shah says the military action has done more harm to the civilian population than the militants.
"The Army continues to fire at civilian targets, although the militants positions are quite distinct and removed," he says.
Mr. Shah says several civilians belonging to the Mehsud tribe havebeen taken into custody, and many people now have no option but to leave their homes.
"Ladha [one of Waziristan's main towns] is now deserted as the[unlawful] government has stopped all trade intothe area," he says.
"Hospital and schools have been closed down, and food supplies are running low.
"The Army has launched a blockade of the area for the last 10 days."
Mr. Shah says the government's failure to honour previous peace agreements has led to the current fighting.
He says the jirga, or tribal council, in this regard was held on Monday but has not yielded any results.
Ata ur Rahman, a local leader from the area, told the BBC: dialogue was the only hope of ending the fighting.
He said the militant leadership had no desire to fight the Pakistani Army, or the government. "Baitullah has said himself several times he has no quarrel with the Pakistan Army."
"Whatever he is doing is in self defence for the attacks against him and his men. For them, the main battle is in Afghanistan."

Musharraf's Supreme Court dismisses price hike case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a case pertaining to the price hike in daily-use commodities in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and observedthat it was not the job of the apex court to fix the prices of daily-use commodities.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Acting Chief Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, was hearing a suo motu case regarding the increase of prices of daily-use items. The bench observed that the suo motu did not fall under the jurisdiction of Article 184(3) of the Constitution and dismissed the case.

The Supreme Court had taken a suo motu action on June 27, 2007 on press reports, stating that the prices of the daily-use commodities had increased andthere was no check or control over them. The report was converted into a petition and fixed for regular hearing in the court on July 23, 2007.

On Thursday, the Attorney-General Justice (retd) Malik Qayyum, while appearing before the court, said the court could not influence the issues related to the market as it had no suo motu jurisdiction over such issues. Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, the counsel for the sugar mill owners while appearing before the bench, submitted that the NAB in its report admitted that an inquiry was initiated against those responsible of increase in the sugar prices but they had stopped the inquiry without nominating anybody.

At this, Acting Chief Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi said the court could not ask for initiation of inquiry against anyone as it was not the job of the court."It is the duty of the market forces to control the prices of daily-use commodities and not of the court," Justice Abbasi remarked while dismissing the petition.

SAC Discussion - 'Analytical Survey of Pakistan's History'

Student Action Committee (SAC) invites you to a Discussion On
Analytical Survey Of Pakistan's History
With Dr. Mubarak Ali

Date: Saturday 26th January

Time: 4pm SHARP

Venue: Nehrghar – 5 Zaman Park

Dr. Mubarak Ali is a renowned historian with more than 50 books to his credit. He received his M.A. in History from Sindh University, Hyderabad in 1963 and Phd on the Mughal Period from Ruhr University, Bochum , Germany in 1976. He has been the head of the history department at Sindh University and later the director of Goethe Institute, Lahore . He is also the editor of the quarterly journal Taarikh (History) and is respected for his independent views and analysis which are usually in conflict with state defined history of Pakistan.

Directions: Nehrghar - 5 Zaman Park. On the canal, cross the mall road and take the 1st left at the Zaman Park sign, take an immediate right on the side lane.It's the 2nd gate on the left.

Imran meets Senate majority leader about judiciary

Mr Imran Khan Chairman PTI and his delegation including Secretary General Dr Arif Alvi, Mr Ali Zaidi, and Dr Ikramullah Khan a Pakistani surgeon from Las Vegas met a high powered Senate group under the leadership of Senator Harry Reid the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Dick Durbin who is Assistant Senate Majority Leader, Chairman Senate Foreign Relation Committee Senator Joe Biden, Chairman South Asia Committee Senator John Kerry, Senator Patty Murray Member Senate Appropriations Committee and Secretary of Senate Democratic Party Caucus, Senator Casey who is Member Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Tom Harkin Member Senate Appropriations Committee. The meeting lasted one and a half hour.

Mr Imran Khan expressed his views that the current US policy of supporting a military dictator is contrary to American values. He insisted that the relationship should be between the people rather than between President Bush and Musharraf. Mr Khan said that PTI is struggling for the restoration of the judiciary and that Musharraf should resign as he is an illegal President. PTI wants a free and fair election to be held under a national caretaker government. Without restoration of the judiciary elections would be a farce. Mr Khan said that he is meeting lawmakers in the US Capital to make them aware of the real situation in Pakistan. He said that the current policy of the Bush administration is actually promoting terrrorism. Musharraf's indiscriminate bombardment of civilians in Waziristan, FATA and Swat is providing a fertile ground for terrorist recruitment.

After the meeting of the PTI with the entire Senate leadership Senator harry Reids office issued the following Press Release.


Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met today with Imran Khan, a leading Pakistani opposition leader, to discuss the upcoming Pakistani elections and the future of democracy in Pakistan.Khan, a member of the Pakistani parliament, leads the Justice Movement party and expressed deep concern about the Pakistani judiciary.

Khan made it clear that Pakistan cannot have true democracy, or free and fair elections, without reinstating the head of the Supreme Court and the rest of the judges President Musharraf dismissed. He also believes that the February 18th parliamentary elections may be rigged, which would further undermine Pakistani democracy. “Today’s meeting made it even clearer that the United States must support the people of Pakistan rather than individuals in that nation’s government who oppose democracy,” Reid said. “I believe that the United States needs to look closely at the assistance we send to Pakistan. If President Musharraf does not allow full and free elections and does not restore freedoms, we need to consider reducing non-development aid to Pakistan.”

Reid recently sent President Bush a letter urging him to consider cutting off non-development aid to Pakistan unless President Musharraf reinstates the previous Supreme Court, restores all freedoms and allows a full investigation into the recent assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto.

In today’s meeting, the group also discussed U.S. development assistance to Pakistan and the importance of ensuring that U.S. taxpayer dollars are helping the Pakistani people in areas like education and healthcare.