The 42-day drama in Pakistan is far from over; the
declaration of a state of emergency and the lifting of emergency are part of a
charade, behind which exists a complex power play between Pakistani President
Pervez Musharraf, various camps within the military elite, and the US
government. The Pakistani people are the least relevant to these calculations,
although every player never fails to justify unwarranted actions in their name.
General Musharraf�s motives for declaring a state of
emergency on November 3 are far from enigmatic. To guarantee his political
future, Musharraf acted in the decisive, uncompromising fashion of a military
man: first he brought the country to a state of suspended animation, then he
restructured the government, judiciary, parliament and constitution to align
them with his interests. Once these changes were enacted, he revoked the 42-day
state of emergency, and even further promised �absolutely� free and transparent
legislative elections on January 8, 2008.
The Bush administration�s placatory response to Musharraf�s
actions (not going further than carefully-worded, benign condemnations) is not
the only thing that makes it hard to substantiate the claim that Musharraf
acted independently of the US or at the behest of some elements in the
Pakistani military alone. Following September 11, 2001, and the invasion of
Afghanistan soon after, Musharraf has become one of America�s most faithful
allies in the region. US aid to Pakistan multiplied and was spent with little
accountability. According to Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Professor of Economics at
Columbia University, �75 percent of the $10 billion in US aid has gone to the
Pakistani military, ostensibly to reimburse Pakistan for its contribution to
the �war on terror,� and to help it buy F-16s and other weapons systems.
Another 16 percent went straight to the Pakistani budget, no questions asked.
That left less than 10 percent for development and humanitarian assistance.�
The Pakistani president is Machiavellian part and parcel.
Contrary to appearances, he knows his limits and plays by the unwritten rules
of power. When he declared a state of emergency, he cited two objectives with
The first was aimed at his detractors who he claimed had
mounted a �conspiracy� to destabilize the country and his rule; as this
conspiracy allegedly involved the judiciary, it justified his purge campaign.
The second message cleverly transcended all of that to reel
in the US and its �war on terror.� Indeed, according to this logic, Musharraf
needed a state of emergency to combat a Taliban-inspired insurgency stemming
from the tribal areas in the Northwest Frontier Province. With the US and NATO
fighting their own Taliban and Taliban-inspired insurgency in Afghanistan,
Musharraf�s actions in Islamabad were meant to supplement the incessant efforts
at curbing the terrorist resurgence in the entire region.
It is hardly news that countries which utilize �war on terror�
reasoning to justify violating human rights and democracy in their own
countries are often -- if not always -- American allies or clients.
Musharraf must have understood that his failure to cooperate
with US military plans would invite US wrath and hasten his exit (violent or
otherwise). While his �cooperation� was hardly optional, it also had its
rewards. One of these was a free hand to alter internal political structures,
so long as they didn�t in any way interfere with US interests. Musharraf tested
this unspoken understanding, and the Bush administration kept true to its word
-- until the US Congress decided to interfere.
At the same time that Musharraf began decrying the
Taliban-inspired insurgency in the tribal areas, US officials began highlighting
-- if not manipulating -- intelligence that exaggerated the same threat.
For example, US Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a
media briefing on December 21 that al Qaeda insurgents are shifting focus to
Pakistan, threatening the country and its �people.� Gates dismissed the
Taliban�s violent return to Afghanistan, even mocking the over-publicized
spring offensive. �The spring offensive we expected from the Taliban became
NATO's spring offensive," he told journalists in Washington. Why this sudden
change of priorities, and why did they coincide so well with Musharraf�s own
The shift -- which has made Pakistan the primary
battleground, as opposed to its previous position as a less important frontier
than Afghanistan -- could mean a major strategic change in US military policy
toward Pakistan in the future. It also emphasises the importance of the role
played by Musharraf and his regime.
Musharraf�s validation is urgently needed by the Bush
administration now that Congress has passed the spending bill, putting limits
on $300 million of US military aid to Pakistan. $250 million is be used
strictly for counter-terrorism operation, and the delivery of the rest hinges
on Pakistan�s success -- or failure -- in living up to the Congress� strict
conditions. This deviation, if not contained quickly, might cause a rift and
future difficulties for the US in Pakistan, especially among disgruntled
military figures competing for power, privilege and contracts. For now, the
White House has gone on crisis management mode, touting the January 8 elections
and paying lip service to democracy, free media access and so forth.
One of those involved in defending Musharraf�s record is US
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who, on December 20, said that
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should be able to report that Pakistan is
on its way toward full restoration of democracy. "We're trying to keep
moving toward elections that are as fair and as free as possible. We do think
there are (additional) steps that can be taken and will be taken," Boucher
The US administration and Congress are likely to clash over
the best ways to control Pakistan, or -- to put it mildly -- to ensure
Pakistan�s continuous cooperation in the US �war on terror.� However the clash
manifests, the resulting US foreign policy posture is likely to affect changes
-- substantial or otherwise -- in US policy toward Pakistan, resulting in
further interference in the country�s internal affairs, deepening the discord
and fuelling more violence. Indeed, it may endanger the future of genuine
democracy in Pakistan for years to come.Ramzy
Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has
been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Press, London). Read more about him on his website: ramzybaroud.net.