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.
Thanks for writing about this. It is indeed tunnel vision that the US has when it comes to countries that are geo-strategically significant to "US interests." It matters little what the citizens think, desire, or aspire to. There are numerous examples in history. The crackdown of the press just adds more fodder to the idea that Musharraf needs to go.
[...] Link: Another tick on Sepoy’s clock Permalink | « Abraham was from [...]
Alas, if only Musharraf were Hugo Chavez: http://michaeldorf.org/2007/06/musharraf-v-new-york-times-dawn-aaj-tv.html#c6082613779897492680
It's not amusing to see our history repeat itself again and again. In the not too distant past we propped up one right-wing dictator after another in the "national interest" of opposing the spread of communism, with little regard for the fate of the people living under such rulers, nor for their right to self-determination. Many Americans accepted this without having any clue about what the people in such countries actually were like or wanted: as they were told, it was either this ruler stays in power or communism will be the inevitable result. Now we see the same thing, with only slight variations: either this guy stays in power or Islamists take over; either this guy stays in power or terrorists have their way with us. It's doubly exasperating to hear all of our candidates (yes, even ones I like) dish out the same nonsense so they won't appear "weak" to us. What can I say. Ultimately the Pakistani people will decide for themselves, right?
[...] chapati mystery responds to the “tunnel vision of imperialism” as displayed in a debate between Obama, Hillary and Edwards. “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.” Share This [...]
Military rules in Pak-Bangla subcontinent tend to end in one of two ways: a popular uprising, or assassination. The sole exception was Yahya who had to go after the fall of Dacca. If this is the General's endgame, then what are we talking about? Popular uprising?
Hmm... I wouldn't be so hasty in disqualifying Mushy's actions as anti-people. This may be a necessary evil to facilitate positive actions aligned to the long term strategy he has in mind. Then again it may not. Still, for the time being I'd rather wait and see. I have a feeling he really does have the people's best interests at heart. It's a massively pluralistic and interlink set of responsibilities. It's possible that this is NOT a repeat of military rule of the past, but a desperate fix-it trying to shush everyone else temporarily to say "shut up and let me concentrate!" Who knows? I say give him a fair go (some more years - it's a time consuming job - can't expect miracles, 50 yrs of crap washed away in 10)
When even, seemingly, educated people blame Pakistan's condition on America, what can one accept from the poor Madrasah trained sap. Instead of blaming America, why not take a mini tour back into Pakistan's history. Blame Jinnah first, whose lust for power and hatred led to the partition. Blame the Generals, who following Jinnah's demise never allowed democracy to even get a foot hold, let alone foster, like it did in India.
Nusrat: "Instead of blaming America, why not take a mini tour back into Pakistan's history." I agree with you that one tends to lay the blame on America often. But you cannot discount the fact that a superpower can apply pressure to weaker states, no? For example, look at how many Pakistanis have vigorously protested Musharraf's sacking of the Chief Justice and the attempt to quiet journalists who are critical of him. And yet the US has pledged its support of the Musharraf regime. This isn't just by words, but by multi-million packages of weapons and support. This fact is not lost on critical Pakistanis (and others, obviously, like myself). Pakistan's lack of democracy from its inception has certainly laid it vulnerable to the whims of superpowers, but it's not enough to say, "Look at Pakistan; don't blame at the US." "Blame Jinnah first, whose lust for power and hatred led to the partition." Are you sure about this? I'd like to know where you are getting this idea from (books? mags? ideological assertions?). Jinnah wasn't "lusting" for partition; in fact, the Muslim League was initially against the idea of partition. Furthermore, there were Hindu fundamentalists who had also been prime supporters of Partition as well. So it's not simply Jinnah's lust for power and his hatred. "Blame the Generals, who following Jinnah's demise never allowed democracy to even get a foot hold, let alone foster, like it did in India." Ok, the Generals have been messed up; but come on, you're holding up India as a paragon of democracy. Though these are in some ways all separate arguments, are you thinking about Indira Gandhi when you say this? The anti Sikh riots that left 3,000 people dead? The Gujarat pogrom of killing nearly 2,000 Gujarati Muslims? NONE of the inciters and participants of this violence- to this day- have been charged with any crime and/or murder. This absolute impunity that murderers enjoy does not resonate with "democracy" at all. There are many, many incidents that are not as high profile like the above three that seriously challenge the idea that India is not the land of milk, honey, and democracy. When we talk about a just law being equally applied to everyone, when aberrations in terms of sidestepping the law are no longer the norm, and so on, then we can talk.
"There are many, many incidents that are not as high profile like the above three that seriously challenge the idea that India is not the land of milk, honey, and democracy." Typo: I meant to say, "There are many, many incidents that are not as high profile like the above three that seriously challenge the idea that India IS the land of milk, honey, and democracy."