ACTION ALERT: Demand End to US Support for Dictator Musharraf
November 7, 2007
Pakistan is on the brink: unpopular president General Pervez Musharraf has imposed a state of emergency, sacked the Supreme Court, shut down the media and basic freedoms, and imprisoned democratic opposition leaders. You can act by signing a petition demanding strong US action against Musharraf’s dictatorial, anti-democratic actions.
Elections are planned for January 2008 — they must not be postponed. But martial law and the imprisonment of democratic opposition leaders don't make for a free and fair vote either. So we're calling on the international community — particularly the US Congress, which has voted Musharraf billions of dollars in military aid over the last six years — to use all its leverage for swift elections and restoring constitutional protections.
We just received this email from Asma Jahangir, head of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission and the UN's Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion worldwide. Now under house arrest in Lahore, she's one of many Pakistanis urgently asking the world community to raise our voice:
The Situation Inside Pakistan
Asma Jahangir / Pakistani Human Rights Commission
FROM HOUSE ARREST, Lahore, Pakistan — There is a strong crackdown on the press and lawyers... The Chief Justice is under house arrest (unofficially). The President of the Supreme Court Bar (Aitzaz Ahsan) and two former presidents — Mr. Muneer Malik and Tariq Mahmood — have been imprisoned for one month under the Preventive Detention laws...
There are other scores political leaders who have also been arrested. Yesterday I was house arrested for 90 days... the President (who has lost his marbles) said that he had to clamp down on the press and the judiciary to curb terrorism. Those he has arrested are progressive, secular minded people, while the terrorists are offered negotiations and ceasefires.
Lawyers and civil society will challenge the government and the scene is likely to get uglier. We want friends of Pakistan to urge the US administration to stop all support of the instable dictator, as his lust for power is bringing the country close to a worse form of civil strife.…
Musharraf’s Claims Don’t Add Up
General Musharraf claims that martial law is necessary to combat extremist terror. But it just doesn't add up. Musharraf retains strong links with the Pakistani Taliban (see article below). His emergency powers are being directed only against the democratic opposition, free press and judiciary — just days before a scheduled ruling on whether Musharraf could run for president while remaining army chief. In an August poll, too, Pakistanis rated "ensuring an independent judiciary, free press and free elections" as their top priority.
Right now, leaders around the world are deciding how to respond. The General is dressing up his crackdown in the rhetoric of "anti-terrorism" because Musharraf and his military supporters depend on foreign military aid and international recognition to maintain their legitimacy. That's why we have to speak out now.
The world can't ignore the threat of chaos in Pakistan, or the voices of our fellow democrats there. Let's come together as we did on Burma, and move our governments to act. In these crucial early days, the voice of the world's people has tremendous power. Let's use it. Sign the petition and tell your friends today -
Paul, Pascal, Galit, Ricken, Graziela, Ben and the whole Avaaz team
• PS for more background on Pakistani polls and Musharraf's links to the Pakistani Taliban, see: http://www.avaaz.org/blog/en/pakistan
• Click here to sign our petition; then tell your friends, so they can do the same.
PAKISTAN - THE INSIDE STORY
What do Pakistanis really want? And, what's really going on with terrorism and civil strife in Pakistan, the issue which General Musharraf has taken as his pretext for the state of emergency? These are vital questions.
In researching the issue and talking to experts we found some interesting answers - hence Avaaz's new global campaign to End the Emergency in Pakistan, and support prompt, free and fair elections.
One question people often ask is whether Pakistanis want democracy, or are ready for it. While there is a lot of support for the military to play a role in guaranteeing stability, the answer appears to be yes to democracy - and we're not just talking about elections, but human rights, Pakistan's newly-pluralistic media, the independent secular judiciary, and so forth.
In the August 2007 poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, Pakistanis rated "ensuring an independent judiciary, free press and free elections" as their Number 1 national priority - even higher than economic growth, way above the war on terror. (85% thought these democratic foundations important in some degree, 53% very important.)
So Musharraf's claim that "The common people are concerned with prices, concerned with unemployment and poverty. They are tired of this uncertainty in the name of democracy" - brutally misrepresents what the large majority of Pakistanis think. Which is perhaps no surprise, given that 53% of poll respondents rated Musharraf negatively. (He rated worse than all politicians mentioned except for George Bush, worse even than Osama bin Laden.)
How about the messy reality of civil strife in the provinces on the frontier with Afghanistan and the "war against terrorism"? Well, within a day of the emergency announcement, the military concluded a ceasefire deal with the Taliban in South Waziristan, including the withdrawal of troops. Meanwhile, thousands of democratic activists are being thrown in prison. Emergency powers are being directed primarily against the political opposition, rather than against terrorist groupings.
It gets worse. The respected International Crisis Group (ICG) has published a series of in-depth reports on the conflicts in the frontier provinces and wider instability in Pakistan. It reported last year how President Musharraf's party and military have for years been working in coalition with a branch of the Pakistani Taliban in the Balochistan province, while turning a blind eye to the threats to internal and international stability. Specifically,
"With their chief Pakistani patron, Fazlur Rehman's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam running the Balochistan government in alliance with Musharraf's Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam), a reinvigorated Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are attacking international forces and the Kabul government across Balochistan's border with Afghanistan."
The ICG's overall conclusions on Pakistan, published this summer, include the following analysis:
"Since the 11 September terror attacks, the U.S. has provided the bulk of $10 billion in aid to the military, believing that the military is their reliable partner and the only institution with the capacity to govern and to combat militants.
On the contrary, by excluding moderate parties, military rule has fanned extremism; by alienating the smaller provinces and virtually blocking all institutions and channels of meaningful participation, it threatens to destabilise a country of 160 million people in a strategic and volatile neighborhood...
"The U.S. should use its considerable influence to persuade the generals to give up power, offering political and material incentives if they do so and threatening sanctions if they thwart democratic change.
A free, fair and transparent election this year is the first, necessary step in the peaceful political transition that is needed to bring Pakistan to moderate, democratic moorings."
These are just some of the reasons why we take Musharraf's claim to be Pakistan's last bulwark against terrorism with a large pinch of salt.
Posted by Paul Hilder on November 6, 2007 9:01 AM
Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, New York, Paris, Washington DC, Geneva, and Rio de Janeiro.
To contact Avaaz, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send postal mail to our New York office: 260 Fifth Avenue, 9th floor, New York, NY 10001 USA.