Why does our government support foreign governments who oppress and depress democracy? Is it because we don’t know any better, or we just want to buy ourselves into more trouble than we can handle? Do we really have an extra $10 billion left over from the children’s health care program? Oh wait, I forgot, we didn’t fund the children’s health care program so we could give the $10 billion to Pakistan.
On Nov. 3, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf suspended the country’s constitution and called a state of emergency. While doing this, hundreds of political activists, senior judges and human rights leaders were rounded up and put into custody. Then, our President comes out to say Musharraf has been a great ally in the “war on terror” and encouraged him to hold elections.
Musharraf, who is protected by President George W. Bush, called the state of emergency despite attempts by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush to convince him otherwise. A couple of weeks ago, Deputy Secretary John Negroponte went to Pakistan with a harsh message for Musharraf to lift the emergency decree, step down as head of the army and release thousands of political prisoners or risk a possible showdown with the Bush Administration.
To make this crisis more complicated, former Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto, who is possibly worse than Musharraf, wants the position back and is getting a lot of attention from the media and United States because Musharraf keeps putting her on house arrest and she says she will allow U.S. to fight al-Qaida in Pakistan. Negroponte spoke to Bhutto over the phone once he was in Pakistan, but didn’t meet her to ensure he doesn’t send the wrong signal to Musharraf.
So, how was this whole drama started? Most observers are saying President Musharraf acted to preempt a potential legal ruling by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, invalidating his Oct. 6 election to another term as President, while retaining his position as the military chief. Previously, Musharraf had agreed he would step down as head of the army once he was inaugurated to a second presidential term, but the chances of that happening anytime soon are very narrow.
And why should the U.S. care so much about Pakistan? Well, there are a few good reasons there. First, Pakistan and President Musharraf have been big allies in war on terror and allowing U.S. to use Pakistan to attack Afghanistan. Second, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and there has been an increase in activity and support for groups like Taliban and al-Qaida in Pakistan. Finally, Pakistan also neighbors Iran, where there are talks about the Bush administration wanting to attack.
Pakistan was supposed to be a success story for the Bush administration in their attempt to bring democracy to the Middle East, but I guess those hopes are dieing now. This says something about the types of foreign governments we support.
This is a golden opportunity for us to wake up and realize that we should no longer support dictatorships, but instead we should empower organic democracy, not what we think democracy should be. We owe it to our world’s safety and security not to support dictator-style governments. It is time for us to wake up and realize that we have made mistakes and hopefully we learned something from them and we are moving on.