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article imageOp-Ed: Emergency rule declared in Pakistan, US diplomacy in tatters

By Paul Wallis     Nov 3, 2007 in World
Pakistan’s President Musharraf has declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution, and fired the head of the Supreme Court. That series of events is also a description of everything the US didn’t want to happen in Pakistan.
The US was hoping for actual democracy, and it just isn’t working.
Musharraf is not in an enviable position, and nor is Pakistan. The country is broadly divided into three groups, Musharraf and the military, democratic opponents, and Islamic militants. Former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto is the primary democratic opponent. Musharraf officially and publicly supports the democratic process, but is usually referred to as the problem, rather than the solution.
The military and the democratic opposition aren’t exactly natural allies, but they’re safer with each other than with the militants. Increasing levels of violence, suicide attacks, and the evident targeting of Bhutto definitely add some credibility to the idea of a state of emergency.
The US, however, had been hoping to avoid the state of emergency. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, said as much, in this New York Times article:
In blunt and brief comments on Saturday, American officials condemned General Musharraf’s move. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded a “quick return to constitutional law.” And in Washington, the White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said, “This action is very disappointing,” and he called on General Musharraf to honor his earlier pledge to resign as army commander and hold nationwide elections before Jan. 15.
The problem is that the US is now seen as supporting a dictator in a Muslim nation, against the will of the people. The fact that the US preferred position is a transition to a Bhutto-Musharraf election, with some conspicuous bona fide democracy attached, doesn’t mean much under the circumstances. It’s a propaganda early Christmas for anti-US elements in the region. The Supreme Court has been a thorn in Musharraf’s side for a while now, and its effective demise adds a lot of fuel to the antagonism with the democratic opposition.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, the three elements in this equation are perfectly able to become a self-destruct mechanism for the long-suffering nation. All have external support, some real muscle, and the divides are very deep between them.
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