White House Plays Counterproductive Double-Game In Dealings With Musharraf

bushOn November 3, 2007, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule in Pakistan, citing a need to curb terrorism and restrict activist judges. His decision came a few days before Pakistan’s Supreme Court was set to rule on a series of cases that would have challenged his legitimacy to hold the post of president and chief of military simultaneously.

The Provisional Constitutional Order that followed the emergency declaration put Pakistan’s 1973 constitution into abeyance and suspended all fundamental rights, including: Article 9 (security of person), 10 (safeguard as to arrest and detention), 15 (freedom of movement, etc.), 16 (freedom of assembly), 17 (freedom of association), 19 (freedom of speech, etc.) and 25 (equality of citizens) shall remain suspended.

The suspension of fundamental rights is already producing convictions, as four men accused of treason have been jailed for making anti-government speeches. Pakistan’s private TV stations were all blacked-out and sale of satellite dishes was halted. Hundreds of lawyers and activists around the country were detained or put under house arrest, and the most recent estimate is that around 2,500 people are in jail.

The White House has been playing a quiet double game in its dealings with Musharraf — publicly appearing critical of him while privately lending him support.

On Wednesday, President Bush announced that he finally made a telephone call to Musharraf, reportedly urging him to “return Pakistan to civilian rule“:

President Bush telephoned General Musharraf for the first time since the crisis began and bluntly told him that he had to return Pakistan to civilian rule, hold elections and step down as chief of the military, as he had promised. Mr. Bush called him from the Oval Office at 11:30 a.m. Washington time, and spoke for about 20 minutes, according to the White House.

But reputable Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir reported on Geo TV — Pakistan’s largest private cable news station — that the U.S. gave the green-light for Musharraf to go ahead and call the emergency. According to Mir, the U.S. supported Musharraf because it regarded the ousted “Chief Justice as a nuisance and ‘a Taliban sympathizer.'” That may explain why President Bush’s demands are so light:

Bush administration officials are unanimous in saying that American financial support for Pakistan will continue regardless of whether General Musharraf reverses course.

Moreover, military expert Aysha Siddiqa reports that American diplomats in Pakistan have information suggesting the upcoming elections may be rigged.

The Bush administration has to take a more direct line with Musharraf, ensure honesty and fairness in the elections for all parties, and not merely engage in window dressing.

— Ali Eteraz is editor of Pakistanpolitics.net and he blogs at Eteraz.

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