Tuesday’s front page article about student reactions to the state of emergency in Pakistan (Reactions mixed on Pakistani gov’t crisis, 10/13/2007) painted an all-too rosy picture of what can only be described as a desperate leader turning into a despot to maintain a semblance of democracy, as President Pervez Musharraf has done in Pakistan.
The views expressed in the article claim that the emergency has not affected the daily lives of people – as though coups are an everyday occurrence that Pakistanis have grown accustomed to. While Pakistan has had a tumultuous political history, a sudden and complete overthrow of basic human and civil rights is not something anyone is willing to accept.
Usman Shahid, president of the Pakistani Students’ Association, said: “Basically if you are living in Pakistan, you won’t be disturbed by the suspension of the constitution. You’ll look at it and say, yeah, that’s wrong.” Granted that it may be hard to keep up the true state of affairs due to the government’s suspension of all independent media, international reporting has shown a great display of opposition to Musharraf’s power grab.
Dismissing Pakistan as a third-world country, Shahid contends that Pakistan is somehow unequipped for the Western models of democracy, toward which it should strive. While this seems like a noble endeavor, history has proven the difficulty of any post-colonial democracy gaining credibility when this form of government is imposed upon people instead of emerging through organic, internal processes. Shahid claims Musharraf is working to impart democracy on Pakistanis by first eliminating any institutional or ideological traces of it.
While U.S. officials have kindly asked Musharraf to end the state of emergency, they have largely supported and negotiated with him since his decision to comply with U.S. demands in the war against terrorism. This support from America comes despite the fact that Musharraf has been a military dictator in full regalia since his rise to power eight years ago. This is not sustainable foreign policy: America has time and again supported the rise of dictators, only to take up military and economic sanctions to overthrow them once they start to cause trouble with all the power America helped them attain.
The situation concerning Musharraf and Pakistan is just one more instance of how America is disguising itself as the arbiter of democracy while promoting this end only so far as its own utilitarian aims are concerned. In holding democracy as some contrived normative ideal for the world that it fights to instill but allows to crumble just as easily, America is practicing a type of foreign policy that might as well be considered a state of emergency of its own.
Beenish Ahmed is an RC junior.