For years, lawyers and journalists in Pakistan have been demanding basic democratic and human rights, but the military government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf continues to silence their opposition.
In his recent maneuverings, Musharraf has implemented laws that restrict the media by giving unprecedented power to government regulators to seize private property and interrupt broadcasts deemed unacceptable by the government.
In spite of all this, Washington signaled on Sunday that it will probably continue to provide billions of military aid dollars to Pakistan yearly, the New York Times reported, despite the country’s "state of emergency" and undemocratic restrictions that citizens continue to face by a leader who resembles a dictator deposed not too long ago.
Remember Iraq? The country ruled by a despot who Bush deemed a threat to democracy?
The U.S. government, unfortunately, has a history of using dictators for strategic purposes. During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein was considered a critical ally of the U.S.
Mike Shuster, a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, said that in the 1980s the President Reagan’s administration sold military equipment to and provided Iraq with chemical weapons, which were pre-cursors to the chemical weapons Hussein later used against Kurds in the lethal al-Anfal campaign.
Though indirectly, the U.S. essentially supported Saddam’s regime. That the U.S. government again has failed to see the difference between a dictatorship and a democracy calls into question the integrity of the leadership. The aid that President Bush is providing to Musharraf is only helping run out any and all key opposition figures for the tentative January elections in Pakistan. And those imprisoned are denied due process of law, a basic component to democracy.
Perhaps Pakistan’s geographical location has more to do with the government’s cognitive dissonance. Tensions have recently spilled over the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, creating a need for the U.S. to maintain Pakistan as an ally for the "war on terror."
Regardless, the double standard of this approach to Musharraf’s regime reflects poorly on the U.S., and American leaders would be wise to reconsider the nature of their relationship with such a petty dictator.