The US has often sworn by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf as a friend in the war against terror. Now they are backing him to the hilt as he faces civilian unrest within the country, trying to contrive a deal between the General and a former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, that would keep the General in power.
Meanwhile the General attempts to block the return to Pakistan of another Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who it appears will not play ball with either the Americans or the President.
Where does this place US President George Bush’s aim to promote democracy around the world ? Pakistan, a virtual client state of the US, would be evidently the first place to start.
The rub is that the US, we are told, is more comfortable with the President than Pakistan’s democrats in the fight against terror. The importance of having a stable, and Musharraf-run Pakistan is underscored by Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons, which the Americans fear could fall in terrorist hands if the Islamic jihadis over-run Pakistan.
This argument however overlooks conveniently that neither Bhutto or Sharif are Islamic extremists. The opposition to Musharaff in Pakistan is moderate. The continuation of an unpopular Musharraf government, with US support, will only strengthen extremist elements in the country.
Historically, the US has stood solidly behind Pakistani and its dictators, viewing the country as a gateway to the Middle East, even if it meant antagonizing a large democracy like India. That is the reason why former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed very wisely a treaty in the 1970s with the former Soviet Union. That is also the reason why India’s Leftist parties, and to an extent the scientific establishment, are wary of signing a nuclear deal with the US, that would give India access to American nuclear technology under certain conditions.
Indian’s don’t trust the Americans, and talk of the need for indigenous technology, because they have been the victims of American hypocrisy for decades.
It is now time for Bush, for all his posturing as the great champion of democracy, to set the record straight in South Asia, both within Pakistan, and in its relations with India.
To be sure, the US will say that Sharif and his family faces criminal charges in Pakistan. But Bush cannot be so naïve as to imagine that these charges are for real. Dictators are known to trump up charges, and try to compromise the judiciary, sometimes with a wink-and-a-nod from the US. Bush can’t have forgotten Musharaff’s botched attempt to get rid of the country’s Supreme Court chief justice in March.