Friday, January 25, 2008

Backing Pakistan’s terrorist regime

The United States has poured millions of dollars into Pakistan since September 11th for purposes of combating the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces who took refuge in that country following the Battle of Tora Bora in December 2001.

However, the policy is a failure. The Musharraf dictatorship ruling Pakistan has not proved to be a reliable ally. It has cut deals with terrorist groups promising to leave them alone and has seemingly been willing to cede territory to home-grown Taliban-like groups as it focuses the resources of the armed services on cracking down on pro-democracy activists.

Musharraf has learned that he is not held accountable for what he does as long as says what the Bush administration wants to hear. He has learned how to recite certain buzzwords, catch phrases and American myths, popular with certain elements of the American political scene, to justify his actions. In return, President Bush congratulates him for taking “positive steps.” Despite all the lofty rhetoric about democracy, the administration has backed the Musharraf dictatorship and it’s very ineffective and half-hearted campaigns against the above terrorist groups while tuning a blind eye towards corruption, cracking down on pro-democracy activists, assassinating independent minded leaders of Baluchistan, and having either direct or indirect involvement in the assassination of his chief political rival, Benazir Bhutto. It is all too reminiscent of how the United States previously centered its Middle East policy on the disintegrating authority of the Shah of Iran.

Peter Tatchell reflects upon Musharraf in the Guardian during the dictator’s current visit to Britain:
… Britain and the US are long-time allies and supporters of Musharraf's dictatorship. Despite occasional mild admonishments, our government, in our name, supports him politically, diplomatically, economically and militarily; selling Musharraf the weapons he uses to suppress his own people. Since 2001, the US has bankrolled Musharraf to the tune of $10bn. US fighter planes are used to bomb and strafe pro-nationalist towns and villages in annexed and colonised Baluchistan. Without western aid to support this state terrorism, Musharraf's regime would fall.

Musharraf will, as usual, claim that he is saving Pakistan from Islamic fundamentalism and holding the fort against the terror threat of al-Qaida and the Taliban. He will portray the "tribal regions" of Pakistan, like Waziristan and North West Frontier, as hotbeds of extremism and terrorism that only he can control; wilfully suppressing all knowledge of the gross human rights abuses perpetrated by his subjugating army in the these regions and the legitimate liberation struggles of the people there.

Our prime minister will fall for this hogwash and spin. He will parrot Islamabad's line that we need Musharraf as an ally in the so-called "war on terror" and that without him the country would be taken over by Islamist extremists.

Nonsense. The extremists are already in the Pakistani government, army, police and intelligence services. These state agencies are heavily infiltrated by fundamentalists and Musharraf has failed to remove them.

Moreover, if there were free and fair elections, the opposition parties would win and could start addressing some of the underlying injustices in Pakistani society that have allowed fundamentalist ideas to gain a foothold. Democracy is the best safeguard against dictatorship, whether of the Musharraf or Islamist variety.

The elephant in the room during Monday's Downing Street meeting with Gordon Brown will be Musharraf's complicity in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the subsequent attempted cover-up.

The Pakistani leader has form with regard to political assassinations. In 2006, his
murdered the frail 79-year-old Baluchistan nationalist leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a former provincial governor and chief minister of Baluchistan. Previously an independent nation, Baluchistan was invaded and occupied by Pakistan in 1948. Another Baluch leader, Balach Marri, was killed by Pakistani forces last November.

So far as Bhutto's murder is concerned, Musharraf was the main beneficiary. He has gained the most from her death. She was his main political rival and a likely election winner. With Bhutto dead, Musharraf's chances of election in next month's poll are much improved.

Musharraf is a guilty man. Three scenarios of guilt are possible. Either he personally ordered Bhutto's assassination or he failed to control the rogue elements in the military and intelligence services that killed her. Even if Islamist radicals murdered her, he neglected to provide Bhutto with adequate personal security and he refused her requests for greater protection. Either way, to varying degrees, Musharraf was complicit in Benazir's assassination. The buck stops with him.

Musharraf has, however, preferred to pin the blame on the rebel leader Baitullah Mehsud - a claim
endorsed by the US Central Intelligence Agency, although the CIA has not revealed its evidence or sources. But a spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud has specifically denied responsibility, accusing in turn "the secret agencies" of the state.

While there is good reason to be sceptical of such denials, in the past Mehsud has never been shy of claiming responsibility for his military operations. Moreover, he stood to gain from Bhutto's election. She had, after all, promised greater autonomy for the provinces and an end to Musharraf's brutal suppression of minority tribes and nationalities. Although Mehsud may have ordered the assassination, it seems questionable.
You can read his entire piece here.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

Everyone's hands are guilty in the matter and anyone not lobbing stones despite the national glass house ought to take note of that.

Do as we say, not as we do, and do as we want you to do, as well.

If our government wants any credibility on a world scale, it will cease resorting to the same policies it criticizes in other countries.