Keep applying pressure to restore democracy in Pakistan
Massive protests are planned tomorrow to restore democracy and civilian leadership.
Public demonstrations are planned tomorrow in Pakistan to pressure Gen. Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy and end his rule by martial law. The Bush administration should endorse the protest and continue to apply pressure on Musharraf to abandon his military position and assure that elections planned in January will take place.
When a military junta in Burma cracked down violently on democracy protests in September, President Bush did not hesitate to apply stiff sanctions. More sanctions were imposed in October, as Bush explained, "The people of Burma are showing great courage in the face of immense repression."
The same can be said about Pakistan, where lawyers protested Musharraf's dismissal of the Supreme Court, suspension of the Constitution and shutting down independent television news outlets. Hundreds of lawyers have been jailed under antiterrorism laws.
The United States warned Musharraf not to declare the emergency and called on him to end it. Bush told Musharraf yesterday that he must hold the parliamentary elections in January and step down from his post as head of the country's army. "You can't be the president and head of the military at the same time," Bush said he told Musharraf in a telephone call.
At the same time, however, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told Congress that Musharraf "has been indispensable in the global war on terror, so indispensable that extremists and radicals have tried to assassinate him multiple times." It is true that Pakistan is an indispensable ally in the war against terrorism, but Musharraf is not the only Pakistani capable of leading that effort.
Opposition parties led by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both former prime ministers, plan to demonstrate against Musharraf, but Sharif's party insists that Bhutto renounce future power-sharing talks with Musharraf. Bhutto has indicated that the talks, brokered by the Bush administration, may continue if Musharraf rolls back emergency rule, frees political prisoners, holds the elections on schedule and restores a free media.
Musharraf has told Western governments that he will hold the elections on time and resign as military chief so he can be president. Increasingly, that appears not to be good enough. His lack of public support might signal that he remove himself from politics altogether.
Although Pakistan has become a haven for terrorists along its border with Afghanistan, the U.S. military reports "increasing openness, collaboration (and) synchronization" with Pakistan forces. The United States has provided $9.6 billion to Pakistan since 2001, and the Bush administration is seeking $800 million for Pakistan for the current budget year.
Pakistan is a necessary ally, but Musharraf is anything but indispensable as its leader. Military rule should not be allowed to continue in what had been an important democracy before Musharraf seized control in a military coup that toppled Sharif eight years ago.