Monday, November 05, 2007

Pakistan, the US, Afghanistan and Canada

The US/Pakistan relationship is truly fraught with irony as this statement by Bush Monday morning reveals:

WASHINGTON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush is urging Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to quickly return to civilian rule and release people detained under an emergency decree, the White House said on Monday.
"We cannot support emergency rule or the extreme measures taken during the emergency," Perino said. "Such actions are not in Pakistan's best interest and damage the progress Pakistan has made on its path to democracy."

"The president and his advisers ... right now are urging him to quickly return to civilian rule, to get back on the path of democracy, to restore the freedoms of the press as well as release detainees," she said. "The president continues to urge calm on all of the parties."

This, coming from an American administration that declared a "global war on terror" and was quick to grant itself extra-judicial powers to round up its own cadre of detainees following 9/11. Musharraf, after all, is just claiming the same situation in his country - that he imposed emergency rule to clamp down on militants - which is, of course, not the real reason. Realizing that his presidency was threatened by a supreme court that was due to rule that his win in the October election was moot, he did what he thought he could to hang onto his power just as Bush has used to GWOT excuse to shred the US constitution for years on end. There is no formal "emergency rule" in the US, but the power grab by Bush has virtually mirrored to a lesser extent what Musharraf has now put in place in Pakistan.

And what would happen if Bush actually did declare emergency rule in the United States? If an ongoing illegal war with thousands of US casualties and millions of dead and displaced Iraqis and the knowledge that his regime has been spying on Americans while condoning torture against suspected terrorists hasn't been enough to stop Bush in his tracks by the harshest legal measures possible; with an opposition party constantly whining about how they can't seize power back from the oval office and the Republicans while refusing to impeach their president; and with a population that's just on hold - waiting for Bush's term to simply end while hoping that will bring some relief or change - would anyone really rise up if Bush grabbed even more power? And really, just how much more can he grab since he gets away with virtually everything he wants to anyway?

But, back to Pakistan. This morning, Canada's defence minister Peter Mackay spoke about what seems to be his main concern for Canadian troops in Afghanistan - a possible flood of refugees from Pakistan who might then join the Taliban and al Qaeda. Tens of thousands of displaced Afghans have been returning for years. This is not a new development. What he failed to mention was the delicate military support relationship between the US/NATO and Pakistan ie. how the US has funneled billions of dollars to Pakistan's military in an attempt to keep militants at bay in the north while Pakistan has provided logistical help for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan (such as it is, since there is major support for the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan). That's the real threat to NATO's Afghanistan mission.

Meanwhile, Washington has very little choice as far as supporting Musharraf goes and, although Bush will bluster on with words of disappointment the international community expects to hear, his precious grip on the GWOT is tenuous:

A senior security official speaking to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, said, "Major surgeries are essential in cases like Lal Masjid [a militant mosque in Islamabad], but such extraordinary events need extraordinary powers. If the courts intervene in such matters, the security forces will stop working and nobody will be able to stop the march of the Taliban into the bigger cities of Pakistan."

The official continued, "This is a major crossroads in the 'war on terror' at which Washington will have to approve an all-powerful government, even at the cost of democracy. Otherwise it can say goodbye to Pakistan as a 'war on terror' ally as it [Pakistan] would simply not be able to get results."

Once again, Canadian troops will have to deal with the consequences of the disastrous decision Bush made to pull US troops out of Afghanistan to start his illegal war in Iraq and our Canadian Conservative minority government has just been handed another reason to continue Canada's mission past its currently expected exit date in 2009 - a move it's been trying to justify by any means possible despite opposition by a growing majority of Canadians.

Musharraf's decision will ripple through our country. What are we going to do about it? How much more are we going to sacrifice for Bush's mistakes?


Pakistani Bloggers aggregator
Video: Pakistani police use batons and tear gas against stone-throwing lawyers protesting over Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule
U.S. Is Likely to Continue Aid to Pakistan
Pakistan shakes off US shackles
A look at rights suspended in Pakistan
Musharraf defends emergency rule

Update: Bush holds a press conference and doesn't commit to doing anything:

Bush would not discuss what action he might take — for example, how much U.S. aid to Pakistan would be cut — if Musharraf ignores his request.

"It's a hypothetical," he said. "I certainly hope he does take my advice."

But the president made a point of praising Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror, and seemed resigned that, as a result, there is little concrete action he can take to influence Musharraf's behavior.

"All we can do is continue to work with the president ... to make abundantly clear the position of the United States," he said.

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