Last night during the democratic debate, a history professor asked the candidates what they thought of the lack of democracy in Pakistan under Musharraf. Obama responded first with some baloney – something about hunting UBL or something. Hillary followed suit and said she thinks Musharraf is doing the best he can. Only Edwards answered him directly and stated clearly that the United States doesn’t just want democracy but a particular type of democracy and what if Musharraf goes and Islamists come to power?
Remarkable, isn’t it, this tunnel vision of imperialism? Even a cursory understanding of Pakistani history can show the lack of traction the Islamists have had. Even a dubious grasp of current events can demonstrate the solid pushback by ordinary citizens against the Talibanization of Pakistan. But here we stand…the ying and yang of Pakistani analysis in any and all public spheres of USA: Musharraf or Else.
A few days ago, the General issued an amendment to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance (2007) “barring television networks from airing talk shows and carrying out live coverage of events relating to the judicial crisis”. Today Geo TV and Aaj TV – two popular cable channels – were shut down by the State from broadcasting across the country [and specifically in major metropolitan areas]. More restrictions will undoubtedly follow.
Edwards, Obama and Clinton may not know this – or care – but the Press in Pakistan has been the most vital organ of civil society throughout its existence – through Ayub or Zia or Bhutto or Nawaz. The rise of cable channels has been largely on the back of opinion and news shows anchored by strong personalities with live-studio call-in elements. These same channels carried live footage of the MQM thugs shooting and killing on May 12 as well as the police raids on the channels for attempted shut-down of the transmissions – much to the embarrassment of the spin machines.
Like I have been saying since the judicial crisis started, this is the General’s endgame. He has no real moves left beside force and oppression. He has finally lost the hearts and minds of even those, most forgiving souls of Pakistan’s silent majority. The wise move would have been for a face-saving election, but with the blessing of freedom and liberty, Musharraf has decided to toss aside the farce of Enlightened Moderation and embrace his inner Mugabe.
To my journo readers, this story is worth your time. I hope you can help give it some traction. I wrote off an op-ed to the NYT but since I don’t have a book out, it ain’t getting printed.
updated: Do check out this Time profile of CJ Chaudhry Sahib.