Daily Revolt

November 18, 2007

Is Bush Really Pushing for Democracy in Pakistan?

I've already gone on record as saying that the coup by Musharraf was given the green light by the administration. Now weeks later we are seeing no indication that the White House is putting serious pressure on our "ally in the war on terror" to move towards restoring democracy in Pakistan:
Despite a blunt call from Washington's No. 2 diplomat that emergency rule must be lifted and political opponents freed ahead of elections, there was no immediate sign that President Gen. Pervez Musharraf would heed the advice.

[...]Speaking during a news conference at the U.S. embassy earlier Sunday, Negroponte said he "urged the government to stop such actions, lift the state of emergency and release all political detainees" and that "Emergency rule is not compatible with free, fair and credible elections."

It's a view shared by opposition leaders, who insist that any vote held while thousands of opponents are in jail cannot be considered credible. They say most of those targeted in the emergency are pro-Western moderates, not the Islamic extremists Musharraf said he needed to combat.

[...]Just ahead of Negroponte's visit, Musharraf made some concessions — freeing opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and a leading human rights activist, and loosening his restrictions on several independent television news outlets.

Doesn't sound like the White House is particularly upset with what's going on in Pakistan:
Though measured in his comments, Negroponte expressed some impatience with Musharraf, saying he hoped to see more steps toward democracy soon. "There remain some other issues that are yet to be considered, or yet to be undertaken," he said, without going into detail.

But despite Musharraf's apparent intransigence, Negroponte would not characterize his trip as a failure. "In diplomacy, as you know, we don't get instant replies when we have these kinds of dialogue," he said. "I'm sure the president is seriously considering the exchange we had."

Negroponte also praised Musharraf's efforts in the war on terror, and said he was heartened by the announcement that elections would be held by Jan. 9.

"President Musharraf has been and continues to be a strong voice against extremism," he said. "We value our partnership with the government of Pakistan under the leadership of President Musharraf."

This might explain Bush's unwillingness to make demands of Musharraf:
Even before he walked through the door at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York for his first face-to-face meeting with President Bush in 2001, Pervez Musharraf was something of a hero within the administration for his decisive stand against the Taliban and al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Over the course of a dozen private meetings and numerous phone conversations since then, the savvy and well-spoken Pakistani president has made a point of cementing his personal relationship with Bush. Musharraf has regaled the U.S. president with stories of his youth in Punjab, his empathy for rank-and-file soldiers and his desire to reform the education system in Pakistan, according to individuals familiar with those conversations.

"I think [the president] took an instant liking to Musharraf," former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage said. "At a key moment for us, we gave Musharraf a very tough series of choices, and he came down on our side. He is blunt, and Bush likes that."

[...]In the two weeks since emergency rule was imposed, Bush has made clear he is standing by Musharraf, offering only muted criticism of his actions and refusing to consider any significant cut in U.S. assistance, which has totaled more than $10 billion since 2001. Bush has described Musharraf as "a strong fighter against extremists and radicals" even as he has urged him to lift the state of emergency and hold elections.

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