The latest news on US-Pakistan relations shouldn’t surprise anyone. According to the Associated Press, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf used billions of dollars in US military aid for everything but the paymasters’ intended purpose: fighting Taliban militias.
None of this news, however, is likely to generate much Pakistani sympathy for American taxpayers. What American officials refer to as “anti-American sentiment” is actually a deep resentment of U.S. government involvement in internal Pakistani politics. It is worth noting that U.S. funding for Musharraf marked the third time we have supported Pakistani dictatorship in the country’s 60 years of history.
It is precisely this past that has come to haunt both Pakistanis and Americans today. The intersection of dictatorship and dollars has resulted in a Pakistani military that does not answer to the country’s civilian leadership. Every time American taxpayers financed an alliance with a Pakistani military dictator, we also forced Pakistani reformers to take a backseat.
A repost of my comment at Sepia Mutiny and Chapati Mystery:
On the intersection of U.S. policy and Pakistani politics, I was particularly surprised to read this link off a Pakistani news twitter feed:
Obama calls Zardari, discusses mutual cooperation
Pakistan News.Net / Friday 27th March, 2009 (ANI)
Islamabad, Mar. 27 : US President Barack Obama telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to discuss mutual cooperation and the situation in the South Asian region. Obama and Zardari spoke about the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum initiative, aimed at promoting and strengthening democracy in Pakistan, The Nation reports…
…Zardari, who launched the initiative of ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ (FODP) in New York in September 2008, will chair the Friends’ Ministerial meeting being held in Tokyo on April 17. The forum consists of 25 countries and multilateral institutions…
What is the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum, and why is Zardari chairing it?
Response to “Pakistan in Turmoil,” March 15, 2009, by Barbara Crossette in The Nation
Ms. Crossette’s article is strong on explaining political rivalries, but misses an opportunity to reveal the new gains of Pakistani civil society.
Viewpoint: Marching for democracy in Pakistan
By Sahar Shafqat
The Baltimore Sun (online)
March 12, 2009
Imagine this scenario: What if a U.S. president, in blatant contravention of the U.S. Constitution, fired every Supreme Court justice because he didn’t like their decisions, and filled the court instead with his own cronies? What if a new president was elected on a promise to restore the rightful judges to their legal positions after he was in office? What would you do if he didn’t follow through on that promise?
That is the position that Pakistan’s people find themselves in today.
U.S. has chance to help real democracy in Pakistan
Thursday, March 12, 2009
By Sanjeev Bery, Wajiha Ahmed
Today, a major Pakistani movement for democratic reform will challenge Pakistani President Asif Zardari with a call for government accountability. Known as the Lawyers Movement, this coalition of civil activists will give America a chance to voice support for the strengthening of Pakistan’s democratic institutions.
Members of this movement will begin what they are calling the Long March —- a multi-day walk across the nation that will end in the capital, Islamabad. They are marching to demand a restoration of the independent judges that the former U.S.-backed dictator Pervez Musharraf removed. Continue reading
Plain-clothes police officers detain a PML-N protestor outside the Punjab Assembly building in Lahore.—AP/File
Pakistani President Asif Zardari has given his orders, and compliant law enforcement officers in Pakistan are arresting rival politicians and activists. Team Zardari is taking pre-emptive measures to block Pakistan’s Lawyers Movemnt and allies from pursuing their Long March. Continue reading
As Pakistani President Asif Zardari cracks down on pro-democracy activists, a handful of Pakistanis are posting short bursts of information on Twitter. You can follow their “freedom tweets” online. The best tag is probably #Pakistan:
But you can also go with either of the following…
(Post co-written with Samad Khurram, a Pakistani citizen who participated in the 2008 Long March. Samad is currently a student at Harvard University.)
There is something about marching for democracy that captures the imagination. Perhaps it is because walking is the simplest of human activities. One foot goes in front of the other, and a movement takes shape.
On March 12, democracy activists in Pakistan will breath new life into this old tradition. In what is being called the Long March, potentially hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens will walk hundreds of miles to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city.
Their rallying cry? The restoration of Pakistan’s independent judiciary.