Dec 3, 2007
On November 21, the Pakistan Supreme Court announced that it had ratified the re-election of Pervez Musharraf to a new five-year term in October.
This ruling could hardly be taken seriously. Musharraf had faced no opposition at the polls, with all of his opponents either in prison, exile, or refusing to run out of fear for their lives. And the Supreme Court judges who rubber stamped the electoral farce had themselves been recently handpicked by Musharraf – after Musharraf had deposed the old members of the Supreme Court and then had them all arrested in his November 3 crackdown. That crackdown resulted in the arrest of 3,000 oppositionists, including lawyers and magistrates who contested his rule, as well as leaders of opposition parties and heads of trade unions.
From the beginning, the Bush administration went out of its way not to criticize – expressing only “disappointment.” Said Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, “The president doesn’t want to pre-emptively throw up his hands. He wants to help him get back on track.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has tried to broker some kind of power sharing arrangement to buttress the Musharraf regime. The U.S. pushed Musharraf to share power with either Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, who was driven out of office under a cloud of rampant corruption, or Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister with his own record of rampant corruption, whom Musharraf had deposed in a military coup in 1999. But, as the New York Times (November 18) made clear, if Musharraf is unable to restore some kind of stability to Pakistan, the Bush administration is considering “alternatives to General Musharraf, and is reaching out to generals who might replace him.”
In other words, the U.S. government, the self-proclaimed champion of democracy worldwide, supports either a dictatorship run by Musharraf, or a dictatorship run by former corrupt officials.
Since 2001, the Bush administration has used Pakistan as a kind of rear base in its war against neighboring Afghanistan, with the U.S. funneling more than 10 billion dollars in military aid to Pakistan, as well as flooding the country with U.S. military and intelligence officials.
The Musharraf regime has been weakened by its close tie with the U.S., since U.S. wars in the region are understood by everyone as naked efforts to impose greater U.S. domination over the entire region.
The Musharraf regime has also been weakened by economic and social conditions that are in a state of deep decline and decay. Pakistan has an enormous military, and it spends a greater per person share of the country’s income on the military than does any other country in the world. The Pakistan military is equipped not only with advanced U.S. fighter jets, but 50 to 100 nuclear bombs!
On the other hand, almost nothing is spent on education and health care. The Education Ministry recently acknowledged that as many as 70,000 schools in Pakistan have neither water nor electricity. For millions of children, there are no schools at all, which is why the illiteracy rate has skyrocketed over the last years.
The widespread discontent with the Musharraf regime has reinforced religious fundamentalist groups, out of which have sprung jihadist armed groups. These groups operate both in the remote mountain regions, where there have been big clashes with the Pakistan military, and in the cities, where there have been a number of massive suicide bombings and armed clashes with the Pakistan military.
The response of the U.S. to this development is, on the one hand, to reinforce the Pakistani military, and, on the other, to establish relations with some of the leaders of the armed jihadist groups, paying them, as it has been doing with Sunni and Shiite militias in Iraq.
The 146 million people of Pakistan are being ground up by this situation – one created by a U.S. bent on using Pakistan to control the Middle East.