Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pakistan's Shaky Dictatorship

Graham Usher is putting out reports on Pakistan's tribal areas that we all need to read carefully. This -- despite all the hoopla about affairs elsewhere -- is the real epicenter of the war on terror. And it seems, for the time being beyond reach. It is not only that several kinds of militant Islamist groups are ensconced there; it is that they are welcome there, or at least welcome enough to gain control of the territory. Usher's subtext is that the US is happy with a military dictatorship in Pakistan. Not what the governments anywhere are free to say.

By Graham Usher
The Nation

"Pakistan's President-General, Pervez Musharraf, is facing his worst crisis since he took power in a coup in October 1999. The last three weeks of March have seen violent protests in Islamabad, Lahore and other cities led by black-suited lawyers but followed, increasingly,by once-docile political parties, including the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. All scent that more than seven years of military rule may be coming to a close."
"Unaccountable military rule is one constant of Pakistani politics.American power is another. Two weeks before the lawyers took to the barricades, US Vice President Dick Cheney flew into Islamabad in a Black Hawk helicopter. He was in town to deliver a "tough message" to the Pakistani leader. Since September Washington has become exercised by peace agreements Musharraf signed with pro-Taliban tribesmen in Pakistan's border areas with Afghanistan."
"These pacts have not only failed to reduce the flow of Taliban and Al-Qaeda guerrillas into Afghanistan; they have created ungoverned spaces in which Taliban and foreign fighters have regrouped for a spring offensive"
"What the army did not foresee was the way Islamization would rupture the tribal order on which its rule rested. As a result of the anti-Soviet insurgency and then the Taliban government in Afghanistan,power in tribal areas slipped away from "political agents" and tribal elders appointed by Islamabad. It fell instead to young clerics or mullahs and their followers, who, like them, were poor,disenfranchised and radical. These are the 'Pakistan Taliban.' "
" The agreements consecrated the Pakistan Taliban as a political power"
"Which brings us back to the Chief Justice and protesting lawyers in Islamabad. Their demands are no longer just for the defense of an independent judiciary. They want Musharraf to stand down, exiled civilian leaders like Benazir Bhutto to come home and free and fair elections"
"But is Washington ready to tolerate change?So far no US government official has called for a return to civilian rule in Pakistan."

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