Gulf News , November 21, 2007
After imposing martial law disguised as a state of emergency, General Pervez Musharraf has cracked down on Pakistan’s judiciary, media, moderate political opposition and nascent civil society.
His actions have been universally condemned by the international community. But instead of recognising the error of his ways, the general says he feels “let down by the West” and “betrayed by the media”.
Musharraf is following in the footsteps of the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Manuel Noriega of Panama. In their final days each one of these US-backed authoritarian rulers blamed the US for failing to understand their compulsions and for creating circumstances eventually leading to their downfall.
In the days to come, Musharraf and his remaining loyalists can be expected to whip up anti-Americanism in an effort to deflect blame for their predicament. Things were going well until the US demonstrated its legendary fickleness and showed a soft spot for Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf’s apologists will argue vehemently.
Musharraf recently spoke of Bhutto as “the darling of the West”, completely forgetting that he, and not Bhutto, was the recipient of billions of dollars in aid and personal praise from a long list of luminaries ranging from President George W. Bush to Donald Rumsfeld. If, as Samuel Jackson asserted, “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” then anti-Americanism is the last refuge of US-backed dictators.
The uproar against Musharraf has been caused by his disregard for Pakistan’s constitution and his disrespect for rule of law.
After all, of the UN’s 191 member states why is it that Pakistan is the only country where the chief of the army staff has got rid of the country’s Supreme Court to thwart a judicial verdict against his person?
But, accustomed as he is to turning to America for support, Musharraf is trying to persuade the international community that he is indispensable for the US-led war against terrorism and given his services for the West, his coup against Pakistan’s constitution should be treated as a minor matter.
Soon after the 1999 coup d’etat that brought him to power, Musharraf telephoned General Anthony Zinni, Commander of the US Central Command.
Both Musharraf and Zinni have publicly confirmed their conversation. In his book Battle Ready, written with Tom Clancy and published in 2004, Zinni says that Musharraf told him “what had led to the coup and why he and the other military leaders had had no choice other than the one they took.”
Zinni also mentions Musharraf’s help, two months later, in arresting some terrorists sought by the US, which led Zinni to tell Washington, “Now do something for Musharraf.”
In the aftermath of a military coup that entailed toppling an elected government, Musharraf found it expedient, possibly necessary, to seek the advice and support from the top American general dealing with the Middle East and Central Asia.
Subsequently, too, Musharraf has been proud of his American connections, citing on more than one occasion US support since 9/11 as somehow conferring legitimacy on his military regime. But now it is useful for him to pretend that the West has turned its back on him and for no fault of his.
The US is being nice to Musharraf by giving him time to rectify his mistake instead of putting its full weight behind Pakistan’s political opposition and civil society. Instead of blaming Washington for betraying him, Musharraf should be grateful that the last act of his theatre play is unfolding somewhat slowly.
If someone should be complaining right now, it should be the thousands of civilians jailed without cause not Musharraf.
The US has already done more than a fair share for Pakistan’s ruler and all that largesse has still not prevented Musharraf from turning against America. It is time for America to do something for the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan.