Jul 23, 2007
Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned the suspension of the country’s chief justice by President Pervez Musharraf. This is the latest blow for the dictator, who has experienced several political setbacks lately.
Musharraf’s dismissal of the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, last spring was an obvious attempt by the dictator to ease his legal maneuvering into another term as president. So, the Supreme Court’s siding with Chaudhry is probably a sign that Musharraf may not get the legislative support he needs to get himself reelected.
In any event, the struggle between Musharraf and Chaudhry proved to be more than a legal battle. Whether Chaudhry intended it or not, by challenging his dismissal he became a symbol for the opposition to Musharraf’s regime. There were large demonstrations in support of Chaudhry, one of which last May led to street clashes, leaving 39 dead. Government repression followed, as opposition politicians were arrested and cable transmissions of some private TV stations were blocked. But that prompted even bigger protests, and the government saw itself forced to rescind the repressive measures – which probably also encouraged the Supreme Court to rule against the dictator.
All this coincided with another campaign by Musharraf that seems to have backfired on him. After a weeks-long siege, Musharraf decided last week to raid a mosque in the capital city of Islamabad, where pro-Taliban militants were holed up. The taking of the mosque resulted in more than 50 deaths, and was followed by retaliatory attacks. A series of bombings aimed at army and police forces in different parts of the country killed more than 100 people. This also meant an end to Musharraf’s efforts to renew a truce with the Taliban, who are based on both sides of the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The truce was initially supported by the U.S., but now the Bush administration seems to have already made an about-turn in strategy. A recent U.S. intelligence report called the truce a mistake which has allowed the Taliban and Al Qaeda to gather strength.
Has the U.S. already decided to drop Musharraf because of the continued weakening of the dictator’s control over Pakistan? Possibly, which may mean that Musharraf’s days in power are numbered. But Musharraf’s possible fall from power will not necessarily mean an end to dictatorial regimes in Pakistan. Nor does it seem that things will get better for Pakistani workers and poor.
To the contrary. Last week, White House spokesman Tony Snow said that, now that the truce strategy has failed, U.S. military strikes within Pakistan could not be ruled out. What does that statement sound like, if not a possible spreading of the Afghanistan war, which has been a disaster for Afghan people, to neighboring Pakistan, which is five times more populous than Afghanistan?
Only a year ago Musharraf visited Washington and was praised by Bush for being a staunch ally in the “war on terrorism,” which is nothing but a euphemism for extending U.S. military control over more parts of the world. Musharraf has been doing part of the dirty work for the U.S., by helping the U.S. attack Afghanistan and by trying to keep the lid on the seething popular anger in Pakistan against U.S. imperialism.
So if Musharraf goes, he’ll be just another name in a long list of dictators who have been local henchmen for the U.S., only to be tossed away by their imperialist Big Brother. If he’s lucky, he may escape the fate of another such henchman, Saddam Hussein.