The Hartford Courant, March 14, 2008
Last fall, then-Gen. Pervez Musharraf was re-elected president of Pakistan by a rubber-stamp parliament. Opponents went to court to overturn the election, so Mr. Musharraf restocked that nation's highest tribunal with friendly judges, suspended the constitution, imposed emergency rule and threw thousands of dissidents in jail.
Mr. Musharraf then bowed to the demands of friends — such as the United States — and foes alike and retired from the army. His government permitted parliamentary elections, delayed after the Dec. 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, to take place last month.
Pakistani voters didn't waste the opportunity. Deeply unhappy with Mr. Musharraf for his autocratic ways and what they see as his failed campaign against terrorism and ineffective economic policies, they voted lopsidedly in favor of opposition parties. Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party got the biggest bloc of votes.
The opposition is now trying to form a government and name a prime minister. Many of the winners want to impeach the humiliated Mr. Musharraf. He is bound, at the very least, to remain an isolated, unpopular figure as president. But despite all this, the Bush administration, which has given him billions in aid, continues to embrace him. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told Congress recently that the United States will "continue to work well with him." White House press secretary Dana Perino said President Bush "does certainly support" Mr. Musharraf.
Whatever happened to the Bush administration's pro-democracy campaign? Why is it showing such strong public support for a man who took office by coup and kept it by strong-arming the opposition? Many Pakistanis see it as meddling by the United States, and they say Washington is out of touch with what is happening in Pakistan. It wouldn't be the first time Washington's playing footsie with autocrats got us into trouble.
The Bush administration would pay homage to democratic principles by trying to work with the largely moderate forces who won the recent election in Pakistan in the common fight against terrorism. Mr. Musharraf is a bad bet.
A New Deal in Pakistan
By William Dalrymple
New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 5 · April 3, 2008
The province of Sindh in southern Pakistan is a rural region of dusty mudbrick villages, of white-domed blue-tiled Sufi shrines, and of salty desert scrublands broken, quite suddenly, by floodplains of wonderful fecundity. These thin, fertile belts of green—cotton fields, rice paddies, cane breaks, and miles of checkerboard mango orchards—snake along the banks of the Indus River as it meanders its sluggish, silted, café-au-lait way through the plains of Pakistan down to the shores of the Arabian Sea.
In many ways the landscape here with its harsh juxtaposition of dry horizons of sand and narrow strips of intensely fertile cultivation more closely resembles upper Egypt than the well-irrigated Punjab to its north. But it is poorer than either—in fact, it is one of the most backward areas in all of Asia. Whatever index of development you choose to dwell on—literacy, health care provision, daily income, or numbers living below the poverty line— rural Sindh comes bumping along close to the bottom. Here landlords still rule with guns and private armies over vast tracts of country; bonded labor—a form of debt slavery—leaves tens of thousands shackled to their places of work. It is also, in parts, lawless and dangerous to move around in, especially at night.
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