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Benazir Bhutto shows courage and determination in calling for Musharraf's ouster

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AS our anti-democratic president declares himself satisfied with Musharraf's promises to remove his uniform and allow the January elections he's suspended to proceed sometime in February, the democratic process in Pakistan is still actively trying to gain ground with Pakistanis continuing to launch protests against their autocratic ruler.

Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has continued to protest Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule and are actively submitting themselves to arrest, even as their leader was ordered under house arrest yesterday for the second time in four days to prevent her from leading protests against the U.S. supported strongman.

The latest order for her detention at home came after Ms. Bhutto came out with an unequivocal call for Musharraf to step down and announced plans for a three-day, cross-country protest convoy. "I think it's time for Gen. Musharraf to leave," Bhutto told NPR. "Ever since he took power, he has failed to build a democratic base. He said he would restore true democracy, but all he has done was twice impose martial law."

Many of her supporters have already begun the banned procession, despite the police barricading of Bhutto's neighborhood. The initial excuse from Pakistani authorities for the barricade was that they had obtained intelligence of another assassination attempt on her. The obvious result of the barricade, however, was the stifling of opposition to Musharraf's tyranny in arresting and detaining his political opponents and his suspension of the Pakistani press. Apparently, leaders of the governing party have been allowed to hold rallies, despite the state of emergency, without any similar interference from the government enforcers who have denied Ms. Bhutto her freedom of movement and her ability to organize her opposition.

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With Bhutto's open and direct declaration that Musharraf should resign, there is now the prospect that she will align with other opposition groups in challenging his self-imposed rule. There was earlier speculation that she might join with Musharraf and share power, but, in a statement on Geo TV, Bhutto said, "I could not serve as prime minister with Gen. Musharraf as president . . . I will not be able to work with Gen. Musharraf because I simply won't be able to believe anything he says to me."

So, here we are, with our lame-duck imperialist showing no sign of pulling back or even threatening to limit the millions of our tax dollars which support the power-grabbing general in his dictatorship. Where is the concern from this White House for the democratic process in Pakistan they've given so much lip service to? All of the influence of Bush's office is invested in maintaining their political ally in power, despite the growing unpopularity of Musharraf in Pakistan and despite his undeniably anti-democratic actions. There has been no threat of any sanction at all from the administration in protest of Musharraf's denial of democracy and against his open coup of Pakistan's democratic institutions.

The most disturbing aspect of Musharraf's crackdown is his equating of his suppression of protests from his political opposition to a fight against 'Islamic militants'. A statement issued by the UN Human Rights Council expressed concern over that linkage. “We condemn the retaliation measures, including the abuse of the notion of terrorism, against those who are expressing their dissent against the imposition of the state of emergency," the statement said.

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That linkage is precisely the same approach Bush has taken to opposition to his imperialist advances across sovereign borders in the name of fighting 'terrorism.' It's no surprise to find him in solidarity with the Pakistani strongman against the democratic expressions of those who would resist the imposition of Musharraf's anti-democratic crackdown. But, if there is any sincerity at all in Bush's bleatings about the importance of 'freedom,' 'liberty,' or democracy, he will need to rethink his interfering expressions of confidence in Musharraf and acknowledge the courage and determination of opposition leaders like Ms. Bhutto and her supporters as they struggle to make democracy in Pakistan more than the mere political rhetoric he is so 'positive' about.


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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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