You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

US Tones Down Praise for Musharraf


WASHINGTON (AP) — Just months ago, the United States publicly championed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as an "indispensable" ally.

Now, officials barely mention the man the Bush administration once promoted as essential to holding together a nuclear-armed country deemed crucial to the U.S.-led fight against extremists in South Asia.

The new tone comes as the United States works to gain the favor of Pakistani opposition forces that won big in last month's parliamentary elections and as Musharraf's grip on power weakens. The newly empowered politicians are promising to reinstate fired judges who had questioned the legality of Musharraf's continuing in office.

The United States says it still intends to work with the former army chief, whom Pakistani lawmakers elected to a five-year presidential term in October. But the Bush administration appears to be shifting from making support for Musharraf the core of its Pakistan policy, which many U.S. lawmakers and Pakistani opposition leaders have long wanted.

Robert Hathaway, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Asia program, said Bush officials will not abandon Musharraf, "but clearly they have to, in rather dramatic fashion, alter what had been their previous practice of putting all of the American eggs in a Musharraf basket."

Pakistan's "new realities," Hathaway said, "dictate that they deal with Islamabad on a much broader basis if they wish to have any sort of influence in Pakistan."

In Feb. 18 parliamentary elections, the parties of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, finished first and second. The Pakistan Muslim League-Q, a party loyal to Musharraf, lost heavily.

The turnaround for Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, followed months of angry criticism at his crackdown late last year on the opposition, judiciary and media. In November, he declared a state of emergency and purged the Supreme Court before it could rule on the disputed legality of his presidential re-election.

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said this week that the United States was reaching out to the opposition. "We have talked to all the parties, telling them all, `We will work with whoever emerges as the leadership,'" he said.

The U.S. does not seem as eager to promote Musharraf as it once was.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told lawmakers late last month that "Pakistan has been indispensable" to the fight against extremists, a marked change from his comments in November that Musharraf himself was the indispensable key to the effort.

This week, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack avoided taking a position on the possible restoration of the judges.

Asked if the United States was reaching out to politicians to express opposition to bringing back the judges, McCormack said, "No."

"We're not in the business of interpreting their laws or their constitution for them," he told reporters. "We don't have a vote in this, nor should we."

The United States does, however, have a stake in Pakistan's success as a moderate Islamic state. Washington has pumped about $10 billion in aid into Pakistan since Musharraf sided with the United States in the drive to topple the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan and hunt down terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Farhana Ali, an analyst at the Rand Corp. think tank, said there is a "hesitancy within the administration to completely let go of Musharraf."

She added that the Bush administration acknowledges "that we need Pakistan's support. Therefore, it's wise for us to accept whoever is going to take the throne."

Non-violent Resistance and non-"Islami Jamiat Talba"

For ages, the educational institutions of Pakistan have been plagued by fascist groups of terrorists posing as students. Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) is one of the most "organized" of such cults and has been holding the largest university of Pakistan - University of Punjab (PU) - hostage for more than a couple of decades. They always resolve to violent tactics when faced by competition since they lack any moral ground whatsoever. These criminals, guised as students, sell the name of Islam to gain some sympathies in order to continue their heinous activities which range from extorting the local businesses and the university administration, allotting hostels to their favorites, irregularities in the examinations, and last but not the least, creating a continuous atmosphere of fear amongst the university population through use of violence. The students on the campus of PU have been living in a constant state of Martial Law where they can not even talk on social or political issues without getting beaten up.

IJT has repeatedly targeted (despite their promises of cooperation on all public forums) peaceful activists of Student Action Committee (SAC) which is a non-violent, non-partisan, students association striving for rule of law, freedom of judiciary and a rejuvenation of non-violent and non-partisan student activism on Pakistani campuses in Lahore and Islamabad. In the most recent string of events, they beat up three SAC activists who were merely distributing pro-judiciary flyers after the Friday prayer. Read the full story at FASTRising. They were brutally attacked, kicked and punched by more than a dozen IJT gangsters in front of the Mosque. How Islamic is that? and how student-like is that? The SAC activists, on the other hand, made a deliberate show of non-violence and did not make any effort to respond with the violence being thrown at them. Though they were badly injured in the process, but they came out victorious nonetheless; because they have shown, by practical example, what they stand for and how different they are from the thugs that oppose them.

The purpose of this post is to salute our heroes: Sajjad, Amir Jalal, and Haroon Riaz; who stood up to the challenge and showed what human will can accomplish despite terrible odds. They have, once again, put life into non-violent activism. They have provided us with, yet another, proof that the so-called IJT is neither Islamic, nor a student organization. The question that remains is, how long? How long will these gangs be allowed to disturb the calm of educational institutions? How long will these children of Zia's Martial Law be supported to maintain their own kind of Martial Law on students' soil? And, most important of all, how long will the students in general keep quiet about the cancer of our public universities/colleges?

RiseOfPakistan team thanks and salutes Sajjad, Amir and Haroon; who have made us all proud!