kawaa's blog

Where does jihad live?

By: on 26 Oct 2007

Newsweek’s cover story this month on Pakistan says it all: “Where Jihad Lives Now”. Pakistan is now the main haven for the enemy, an unstable state with nuclear capacity that is, in the manner of the Ebola virus, being rapidly infiltrated by al-Qaeda and fellow travelers.

The United States has completely lost control of its crusade against the ‘terrorists’, and Pakistan is rapidly becoming the next scapegoat. This failure is because of several strategic blunders made by the Administration in 2001. I will concentrate on one, though: the territorializing of conflict against al-Qaeda.

George Packer Democracy

By: on 14 Oct 2007

George Packer, one of my favourite political commentators, recently published a short two-part piece onine about human rights advocacy in the context of American foreign policy: manic-depressive was the verdict. Americans either do very little (Central America, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfour?) or go in all guns blazing (Somalia until the ‘Black Hawk Down’ moment, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran?). Packer also aptly describes American impatience for multilateral diplomacy, particularly when it means cooperation with countries like China that will not abide the supposedly universal language of human rights.

American democracy advocacy is just as checkered: can the world community sit with completely straight faces listening to the US’ passion for democracy while propping up oppressive monarchies (Morocco, Saudi Arabia), military dictatorships (Egypt, Pakistan) and oligarchies with democratic trapping (Afghanistan)? This, of course, does not include the Cold War era, wherein the list becomes a great deal longer (Indonesia, Zaire, Ethiopia, Apartheid South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Turkey, Chile, Brazil, Iran, Iraq!, several Central American nations, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, etc etc etc.) Coughs and sniggers, barely stifled, greet America’s historic role as a guardian of democracy.

Democracy promotion has taken a new, sharper edge in the last few years: America invaded Iraq ostensibly to restore democracy to that country. What is different now, in the post-September 11th era, the (now mercifully waning) age of the neo-conservative ideologues in the Bush Administration?

Regime Change, Matlab Party Change?

By: on 14 Oct 2007

Part of every decent commentary about Pakistan's impending (and possibly stillborn) democratic transition these days is a mention of the chaos, corruption and misrule of civilian governments in the 1990s. If Pakistan wants democracy, it seems, it must suffer from the worst kind of democratic politics imaginable: conditions that eventually are chanced upon by an angered or ambitious Chief of Army Staff as an obvious reason for military rule, and thus the cycle turns around again.

Why, though? It seems to me that one of the biggest obstacles to the sustainability of democracy in Pakistan is the character of the parties involved, and particularly their leaders. Apart from some parties that have regional power (the MMA in NWFP and Baluchistan, the MQM in Sindh), the only parties capable of forming national governments are the PML(N) and the PPP, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. And these two, far from being the defenders of democracy, have become democracy's greatest liabilities.

Both Mr. Sharif and Ms. Bhutto are deeply comprised individuals. They both have pending charges against them for corruption and worse -- some trumped up, most accurate -- and have been in exile for several years in Riyadh and London respectively. They are also two of the richest individuals in the country: Bhutto owning vast agricultural lands in Sindh and Sharif running industrial concerns in Punjab. There is no doubt that both enriched themselves and their closest allies while in power, and empoverished the country in the process.

This does not excuse Musharraf's continued military rule, or martial law in general. But it does lead us to question the character of those who are meant to lead the movement for democracy.

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