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U.S. should support democracy in Pakistan — not military dictators

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2008 10:00 pm

Pakistan's 60 years of tumultuous history has shattered the dreams of its founders and expectations of the populous, who wanted a separate homeland, where they could practice their own religion and culture under a democratic system.

The speeches and writings of Mohammad Ali Jinnah (the father of the nation) before and after the creation of Pakistan are very clear and precise. He wanted a modern democratic state where human rights are respected and people of all faiths could live in harmony with each other and with the neighboring countries.

Unfortunately, he died a few months after his dream of a separate nation was realized. Soon after his death, his confidante Liaqat Ali Khan, the first prime minister, was gunned down at the same location where Ms. Benazir Bhutto (BB, as she is called by the people) was murdered on Dec. 27, 2007. Since then, the nation has been yearning for caring, charismatic, benevolent and dedicated leaders. Some had the promise but they turned out to be self-centered, egotistical, corrupt thieves.

The murder of Liaqat Ali Khan after 60 years is still shrouded in mystery. Who contracted out his killing is still unknown. Like the Kennedy assassinations, conspiracy theories abound. The official investigation report has never been published. BB's murder investigation, perhaps, may end up in the same heap of secret files with the thick layers of dust that cover most of the administrative offices of the government of Pakistan.

Pakistan was ruled by a triad of powers until 1979, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. The politicians, from time to time, took over the government and due to their sheer incompetence and corruption lost the power to military dictators, who consider themselves to be saviors of the country. The equally corrupt bureaucrats latched onto and supported whoever was in power. The judiciary stayed subservient and did not play any role.

Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979, a fourth center of power emerged. These are the religious clergies, who, due to their access to the microphones in Friday sermons, have more connection with people than the politicians, military or the bureaucrats. Their mettle was tested by the Soviet-Afghan war with the military training and financial support from the United States and Saudi Arabia. They started throwing their weight around and the politicians and the military took notice and started appeasing them.

Last year, the Judiciary woke up from a deep sleep and opened up a Pandora's Box by questioning the decisions made by the ruling class. This brought the country to a crisis mode. President Musharraf tried to cling on to power by illegally firing almost all of the judges of the Supreme Court and by declaring emergency and abrogating the constitution.

BB's family, considered feudal lords in the Sindh Province, has a tragic history. BB is the fourth Bhutto to be killed. Her father Zulfiqar, a very charismatic but despotic prime minister, was hanged by a military regime of Zia ul Haq. Her brother, Shahnawaz, was poisoned in a Paris apartment. Another brother, Murtaza, was murdered in Karachi while BB was the prime minister. It is well known in Pakistan that Zardari, BB's widower, has a questionable character.

The Bhutto family has many enemies. They range from the rival feudal lords of Sindh, the leaders of political party MQM, the military regime, and some very influential leaders of the province of Punjab, the Talibans, the clergy and al-Qaida. And perhaps many more.

The Bush administration first put all their trust in the military dictator Pervez Musharraf. Since that did not pan out from the political perspective, they brokered the deal between Musharraf and BB (who were two arch-enemies) and tried to bring semblance of democracy in the country.

The two billion dollars that BB stole from the treasury of Pakistan and all the court cases were forgiven with a stroke of a pen by the military dictator, and BB triumphantly entered the country after eight years of self-exile. She was greeted by a bomb blast where many innocent civilians died.

This definitely was not a match made in heaven. It was a deal of convenience that was transparent to millions in Pakistan and around the world. It was considered a direct U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of the country. This whole approach was doomed to failure, even if BB was not killed.

Now, the brains of the think tanks must be scratching their heads of what to do next. The news reports show that emissaries are arriving from the U.S. and other countries trying to direct Mr. Pervez Musharraf.

The lesson we learned from the present and past events, is that military dictators or individual politicians cannot be relied upon. Pressuring and coercing individuals in power to make deals does not pay in the long run. The only venue open to the U.S. policy makers is to support the democratic processes in Pakistan and not bet on an individual personality.

The Pakistani people are capable of making rational choices. Whoever they choose will work with the U.S. to combat the evil forces that haunt the world today.

Taj Khan of Lodi is a consultant and retired engineering manager for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 12:13 pm on Wed, Jan 9, 2008.


    The Bush Administration is actively trying to direct/work with Mr. Musharraf. It appears the radical Islamists have been strengthened by BB's murder. Would Mr. Khan comment on the current threat of these radicals taking over the country? If elected, I believe that would be the LAST Pakistani election for some time.

  • posted at 3:29 am on Wed, Jan 9, 2008.


    "Issuing a call" sounds a lot like "issuing a Fatwah (call for holy war)", doesn't it?

  • posted at 8:12 am on Tue, Jan 8, 2008.


    Interestingly, in Aug 1946 Jinnah issued a call for all Muslims to launch "Direct Action" to "achieve Pakistan" (break away from India). Instead of the planned strikes and protests, violence broke out all over India which resulted in more than 8,000 people losing their lives. League politicians were blamed for planning the violence, a member of which was Jinnah.

  • posted at 8:01 am on Tue, Jan 8, 2008.


    By your own thinking Mr. Khan (as demonstrated by your positions on the State of Israel), the solution to the Pakistani situation would be to return Pakistan to India (from which it was partitioned at about the same time the state of Israel was partitioned/created by the UN).

  • posted at 5:06 am on Mon, Jan 7, 2008.


    Robb I think if you care to look into
    the world supply of oil 100.00 dollars
    a barrel is going to look cheap...Like
    the old man with the sign says the end
    is near,most experts say 40 to 50 years
    left for recoverable oil...As for the rest of your message, you dropped out of
    school before you had a chance to study
    history??? Or you just didn't get it...

  • posted at 2:14 am on Mon, Jan 7, 2008.


    Given the track record of how Islam
    has conquered nations with no regard for human life I find it hardly a comparison that the U.S. has in any way
    acted like that.

  • posted at 1:49 am on Mon, Jan 7, 2008.


    Robb, our military presence overall
    is for peaceful purposes. Bringing
    down a corrupt government militarily
    is the last resort when all diplomacy has failed. It is in our best interest to help rebuild those countries. I consider than an act of kindness not an
    act of eventual conquest of that country as you so boldy imply.

  • posted at 4:41 pm on Sun, Jan 6, 2008.


    The sad fact remains, we are the only county in the history of the world, that not only invades, knocks down, but also pays to rebuild and give it back!!!

    We should plant a flag, take the countries in question and be done with it..

    All would be solved and all would be happy!

    Soldiers home with affordable gas prices to boot!

  • posted at 4:37 am on Sun, Jan 6, 2008.


    T&C: I am sad to see that you have the reading comprehension of a kindergartener.

  • posted at 1:12 pm on Sat, Jan 5, 2008.


    Maybe Ron Paul is right in being anti-interventionists. Then all the Islamists would have to solve their problems themselves and stop blaming other governments and cultures.

  • posted at 1:03 pm on Sat, Jan 5, 2008.


    The Koran dictates to it's followers
    what they have to believe and do. The key word in that sentence is DICTATE.
    Most Islamic countries are ran by dictators. Islam is not only a religon. It has it's own governing system called Sharia Law. In essence it is up to Islam to have a refirmation and do away with it's dictorial form of indoctrinating people. The U.S. has only been their to offer up an alternative to Sharia Law. It is not the U.S.'s fault that Islam is reluctant to find a way to make their form of governing more compatible with democracy.

  • posted at 12:46 pm on Sat, Jan 5, 2008.


    Pakistan was formed when it broke away from India. It's sole intention was to become as Islamic state. He conviently leaves out how radical Islam has bee the root cause of all the problems in Pakistan. Taj is yet another example of how moderate Muslims are reluctant to speak out against their radical counterparts.
    Taj wrote:
    The Bhutto family has many enemies. They range from the rival feudal lords of Sindh, the leaders of political party MQM, the military regime, and some very influential leaders of the province of Punjab, the Talibans, the clergy and al-Qaida. And perhaps many more.

    How about that Taj. All those enemies you mentioned are against democracy.

  • posted at 6:56 am on Sat, Jan 5, 2008.


    Taj, what would a Pakistani know of democracy?

  • posted at 2:39 am on Sat, Jan 5, 2008.


    T&C: How is it unamerican to support the democratic process? I don't understand your reference to suicide bombers bringing about democracy. Is this a negative assessment of the Pakistani people as a whole, or a reference to the recent assassination? The US is not immune from this type of thing. Remember the string of political assassinations in the 60's, particularly that of Robert Kennedy during his run for president? Mr. Khan has painted an objective portrait of his country of origin. The struggle for democracy is messy business.

  • posted at 2:14 am on Sat, Jan 5, 2008.


    So what you are saying is that "WE" should put our faith in "Suicide Bomber's" to bring about democracy in Pakistan? I don't think so! I am sad to see the LNS is still making a place for your unamerican words!

  • posted at 2:12 am on Sat, Jan 5, 2008.


    Thanks for an informative article, Taj.


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