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Most foreign policy observers believe that the US will not only maintain its $10 billion in aid to Pakistan – regardless of which leader emerges, or how many people remain in jail under the country’s apparently indefinite “state of emergency” – but will increase it. 

“The Bush Administration will choose ‘realpolitik’ over ‘democracy promotion’ so long as a single terrorist is left in the country,” according to a State Department source who spoke on condition of anonymity.  

“We will vehemently vow to reexamine our aid programs, urge free and fair elections, free jailed dissidents, restore the Supreme Court, and then, after some ‘respectable’ period, regress to the status quo ante.” 

He added: “It’s all about maintaining ‘stability’ while working with the US to hunt down the bad guys.”  

Another foreign affairs specialist, Patricia Lee Sharpe, a communications specialist with 22 years in the US Foreign Service in Asia, Africa and Latin America, agrees. “I think this will be the likely course of US policy,” she says.  

Musharraf said the measures were part of the ‘war on terror’, but others believe he was merely trying to head off a Supreme Court ruling that he could not stand for reelection while continuing to head the Pakistani military. 

As seen by Marjorie Cohn, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson Law School and president of the National Lawyers Guild, “Musharraf’s declaration of emergency was not aimed at fighting terrorism; it was designed to maintain Musharraf in power.  It came shortly after the Supreme Court nullified the results of an election that would have preserved Musharraf’s rule.  Musharraf, who has received more than $10 billion from the United States since 9/11, isn’t targeting the terrorists, but rather the judges and lawyers who use the law to challenge his unilateral power.” 

Musharraf dismissed his country’s Supreme Court, placed the recently-returned  opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, under house arrest, jailed hundreds of lawyers, banned peaceful public demonstrations, and released Taliban sympathizers from jail in a lopsided prisoner swap.  

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Over the weekend, Musharraf said he “hoped” to hold a presidential election in the next few months, but did not indicate when or whether the state of emergency would be ended. Under that decree, opposition political parties would be virtually unable to compete on anything like a level playing field. 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on a Sunday television show that Musharraf made a “bad decision”, but added that now would be the wrong time for the US to abandon him. She said the US role should be to help Pakistan to get back on the road to democracy. 

There are a host of reasons why Pakistan’s current difficulties are giving the White House such a major migraine.  Most experts agree that without aggressive Pakistani action, the Taliban and Al Qaeda cannot be routed from the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And there is equal concern about Pakistani nuclear materials or weapons falling into the hands of extremists. But another factor high on the US list of concerns is the fact that President Bush has made democracy-promotion the rhetorical centerpiece of his Administration.  

In last year’s State of the Union speech to Congress, the president said, "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." In his 2005 inauguration speech, he mentioned “freedom” 25 times in 20 minutes. 

But now, the Administration will likely have to put democracy-promotion on the back-burner and play the ‘realpolitik’ game. This will likely result in the US accepting another authoritarian dictator, so long as he pledges an undying commitment to being a steadfast ally in America’s ‘global war on terrorism.’ 

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The future direction of US policy toward Pakistan was made clear by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who defended President Musharraf as an "indispensable" ally.  "No country has done more in terms of inflicting damage and punishment on the Taliban and al-Qaeda since 9/11 . . .There's nothing more important at this time than for the United States to be consistently engaged and committed to try to do the right thing with Pakistan," he told a congressional committee. 

Informed observers say the relatively mild US reaction to the Pakistan crisis -- along with similar predicaments such as the Iraqi election and the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections -- has sounded the death-knell for President Bush’s democracy-promotion agenda. Others say the agenda never existed in the first place. They charge that the Bush Administration has chosen to cozy up to numerous authoritarian rulers abroad supposedly to support more important strategic goals.

Some point to Egypt as one of many examples.  President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt since 1981, won another six-year term in office by “popular referendum” in 2005, garnering 88.6 percent of the total vote in an election that many believe was rife with electoral fraud and intimidation.

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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