A key American ally in President Bush’s war on terror has recently demonstrated the most repugnant of political shenanigans that of using dictatorial military powers to warp and twist the constitutional rules in a naked grab to hold on to power. Today, Pakistan is in a mess and is tottering on the very brink of a full-scale domestic crisis brought about by the long abuse of that country’s constitution by a general drunk with power and unwilling to pursue any alternative democratic means whatsoever.
Saturday’s declaration by General Pavez Musharraf of a national state of emergency is the culmination of a series of events all of which has undermined the socio-political fabric of the country and increasingly saw Musharraf rule by decree and bypassing all the safeguards enshrined in the country’s constitution.
He has shown that he’s immune and not willing to answer to the democratic will of the people and cares very little about what the world thinks of his actions. Confident in the fact that he’s a favored son of President Bush and the US Administration, Musharraf has violated law after law; the most recent when he arrogantly brushed aside the Pakistan Supreme Court’s ruling that the prime minister that he deposed in a coup in 1999 could return to contest upcoming general elections in January 2008.
Musharraf unceremoniously ordered the man deported to Saudi Arabia while the Bush Administration said nothing and the European Union also pretended that nothing happened. Washington favors Ms. Benazir Bhutto as some kind of partner to the pugnacious general and long viewed the former Pakistani Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, as an obstacle to its political arranged marriage. So nobody protested when Musharraf ran rough shod over the rule of law and the decision of the highest court in the land by illegally forcing Mr. Sharif to go to Saudi Arabia.
One illegality followed after another and while Musharraf allowed Ms. Bhutto to come home from exile he also wanted a guarantee – even before the first vote was cast – that whatever form the power sharing was going to take he would not be politically irrelevant. So to facilitate this move Musfarraf packed the local and regional political institutions with his hand-picked cronies and lackeys. These bodies recently gave him near unanimous approval by voting him for another presidential term. Such legal political rigging drew not comments from President Bush or the regime’s backers in Europe.
That only helped to internally inflame things and he became locked in a bitter struggle with Pakistan’s judiciary that appeared to be the only organized force defending the country’s constitution and affirming the independence of the judiciary. Musharraf had removed the head of the Supreme Court once before that sparked a major confrontation between him and the lawyers that forced him to reinstate the leader of the judiciary.
But these are the symptoms of a country in deep crisis. Yes, Musharraf does face tremendous domestic problems mainly due to his new-found friendship with the United States and his embrace of Mr. Bush’s war on terror that has earned him the nickname of “Busharraf.” Hard-line militants, unruly and ungovernable frontier provinces, Musharraf’s head butting with anything and anyone that threatens his iron grip on Pakistan, and his willingness to defecate on the country’s constitution have all contributed to the present crisis.
However, when all of that is boiled down the situation is very simple: The present crisis clearly demonstrates the fragile nature of Pakistani democracy and the frictions and tensions that historically exist between these fledgling democratic institutions and structures, on the one hand, and the vulnerable nature and susceptibility of the society to military dictatorships. And while all this is happening President Musharraf must earn the $10 billion keep from his US taskmasters so he’s engaged in a confrontation with Islamist extremists (partly created by his coziness with Mr. Bush) that is now resident in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and a low-level war in the renegade tribal areas where the Taliban and Al Qaeda has dug in.