Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Victim of the war on terror?

When you negotiate from a position of weakness, you better have moral clarity on your side. We see today a parallel between Musharraf and Bush both negotiating from a position of weakness, both relying on force rather than diplomacy and both trying to protect the status quo rather than bringing about any good or standing for principles.

After Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan this week has become the third victim of the "war on terror." All of them are the victims of unintended consequences. The US is not happy with the results any where but insists on "staying the course". As an ex Commando, Musharraf can be excused for barreling on, no matter what the consequences but the US cannot be excused for the untold damage to its own credibility and the total impoverishment of at least two countries.

One can imagine Dick Cheyne, in particular, going berserk with Musharraf. In one swift action Musharraf has blown away the case for attacking Iran. The media and even some senators are asking the question, why attack Iran who has only Nuclear ambitions, while Pakistan which is loaded with Nuclear weapons is about to fall into the hands of terrorists. So clouded is the thinking in America that not a single person except perhaps Pat Buchannan is able to say that the problem in America's Foreign policy is not Iraq but the "war on terror".

Will Pakistan become another Iraq or Afghanistan? Unlike both these countries, the saving grace for Pakistan are it's lawyers. When people speak for justice and maintaining the rule of law, even the gods come down from the heavens and listen. The leadership in Pakistan is being provided not by it's politicians but by it's lawyers. Twice in the last six months the lawyers have taken to the streets to demand respect for the legal system ( no matter how flawed it is). They have been beaten up, they have been jailed, their livelihood put in jeopardy but they keep coming back. While Imran Khan was hiding, the lawyers were courting arrest.

Amongst the lawyers are also the Human Rights activists. These are people with no armies behind them but the courage of their convictions. Then there are the media. These people are putting their lives on the line. They have found the confidence to see that they can play a major role in laying the foundations of a strong civil society. Pakistan can only become a strong nation if there are such elements in it. This crisis should be an eye opener for the rest that there are still people in the country who care to serve to build it's institutions.

Let us not forget the soldiers who refuse to fire on their own people. The hope for Pakistan is the brilliant light than shines from the actions of it's growing middle class. At this time even some of the elite are behind bars. They have ventured out of their drawing rooms, into the streets to say enough is enough. For the elite it is a huge step to become an active part of the process that says no to authoritarianism. The people who are taking to the streets are no longer paid villagers and unemployed youth, they are people who understand the cause for which they are out there. This is the difference between the crowds that brought down Ayub and the crowds today, who are much more aware of their rights.

Back in Sept 2006, when Musharraf had Akber Bugti killed in Baluchistan, I had predicted that Musharraf's days are over. In March, 2007 when he fired the Chief Justice, his fate was sealed. What Musharraf wanted and was not allowed to do was to become President for life. If Hosni Mubarak can be allowed to rule Egypt for 30 years, why can't Musharraf rule for 15 years. The great confusion in America's Foreign policy is that it speaks from both sides of it's mouth on the subject of Democracy. Musharraf was duped into believing that he could put on a facade of Democracy but continue to rule. His biggest mistake is of course in believing that what is good for Musharraf is good for Pakistan. America similarly believes that it has a sound Pakistan policy as long as it has a Musharraf policy.

As a country Pakistan has no future as long as it allies itself with America's war on terror. Pakistanis know that the people that America calls terrorists are not terrorists. The same tribals that Pakistan has lived with for sixty years, have suddenly become terrorists. The mild mannered Swatis have suddenly become terrorists, The 2 million Afghanis that Pakistan gave refuge to when the Russians drove them out of their country have suddenly become terrorists. These are people who respect and love Pakistan. They have their own grievances, most of them legitimate but they are not terrorists. The people that Pakistan sent into Kashmir and who are called terrorists by the Indians, are they terrorists?

Are 11 billion dollars enough to sell the soul of Pakistan. Are 100 billion dollars enough to sell the soul of Pakistan. That is the question Pakistanis should and are asking themselves.
Are they beggars and slaves of an Imperial Power or do they have any belief in their own nationhood. Musharraf and Benazir are simply middlemen, hawking the honour of Pakistan.

After sixty years Pakistan has yet to pass the test of being a nation. I believe this is the final test. Pakistan has much less to fear fromTalibanisation then it has from it's benefactor. This is the last call for the elite to rise to the occasion and join the lawyers on the streets. This is the last call for the business community to revolt. Otherwise suffer the fate of Iraq and Afghanistan.


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