No Comment — November 9, 2007, 3:22 am

Does Bush Have a Pakistan Policy?

As the last year of his presidency starts, Bush’s foreign policy is in total collapse. It begs the question in fact: does this president have a foreign policy? His second inaugural was a sustained hymn to freedom and liberty, and the speeches he gave shortly thereafter made clear that the export of democracy was his highest foreign policy objective. But one by one the focal points of that policy have collapsed, leaving observers wondering whether democracy ever really was any part of it. And in no case (save perhaps Iraq) is that more evident that Pakistan. Musharraf took a calculated gamble: he thought this was mere rhetoric, and that in the end the administration’s Pakistan policy was simply a keep-Musharraf-in-place policy. And he was proven right on the money.

What Is the Bush Administration’s Game?
Benazir Bhutto, the head of Pakistan’s largest political party, was until recently expected to emerge as prime minister of a new government headed by Pervez Musharraf. Tonight, however, Musharraf has placed her under house arrest in a move which has yet to draw a U.S. protest. While Pakistan continues its slide into ever greater anarchy demonstrated with a frontal assault on the rule of law, the Bush Administration continues a watch-what-we-do-not-what-we-say posture. But indeed, even what this Administration has to say offers no real comfort for the advocates of democracy and civil society in Pakistan. It took four days for President Bush to be heard on the Musharraf coup, and then his comments were extremely unclear. He called for continuation with the elections process, but he also appeared to rule out any sort of sanctions.

At Thinkprogress.org, Ali Eteraz reports that Musharraf’s crackdown against the courts received a wink and a nod from the Bush Administration:

reputable Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir reported on Geo TV — Pakistan’s largest private cable news station — that the U.S. gave the green-light for Musharraf to go ahead and call the emergency. According to Mir, the U.S. supported Musharraf because it regarded the ousted “Chief Justice as a nuisance and ‘a Taliban sympathizer.’” That may explain why President Bush’s demands are so light:

”Bush administration officials are unanimous in saying that American financial support for Pakistan will continue regardless of whether General Musharraf reverses course.”

Talking Points Memo’s Spencer Ackerman reported that the Bush Administration has been funneling large amounts of untraceable cash directly to General Musharraf, for which no accounting is sought:

In fact, however, a considerable amount of the money the U.S. gives to Pakistan is administered not through U.S. agencies or joint U.S.-Pakistani programs. Instead, the U.S. gives Musharraf’s government about $200 million annually and his military $100 million monthly in the form of direct cash transfers. Once that money leaves the U.S. Treasury, Musharraf can do with it whatever he wants. He needs only promise in a secret annual meeting that he’ll use it to invest in the Pakistani people. And whatever happens as the result of Rice’s review, few Pakistan watchers expect the cash transfers to end.

About $10.58 billion has gone to Pakistan since 9/11. That puts Pakistan in an elite category of U.S. foreign-aid recipients: only Israel, Egypt and Jordan get more or comparable U.S. funding. (That’s only in the unclassified budget: the covert-operations budget surely includes millions more, according to knowledgeable observers.) While Israel and Egypt get more money, Pakistan and Jordan are the only countries that get U.S. cash from four major funding streams: development assistance, security assistance, “budget support” and Coalition Support Funds. Pakistan, however, gets most of its U.S. assistance from Coalition Support Funds and from budget support. And it’s those two funding streams that have minimal accountability at best.

Who has bankrolled the crackdown against Pakistan’s lawyers and judges? The American taxpayer.

The ‘Realist’ Apologia and the New Sultans of Swat
The American airwaves and print media continue to be dominated by “experts” who tell us that the U.S. has no choice but to support Musharraf because national security must take the front seat and democracy promotion must take the back. “Only Musharraf,” so goes this argument, “can help us deal with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Global War on Terror.” I’ve rarely seen these experts get off more than two sentences before it becomes plain that they know next to nothing about the actual situation in Pakistan or the abilities and intentions of Musharraf. Most of them seem to have gained their understanding of Musharraf by watching his book hawking on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

As Barney Rubin points out, supporting Musharraf is anything but the “Realist” approach to dealing with terrorism. Even as Musharraf rushes to place half of the nation’s lawyers and judges under arrest, and to squelch the political party which was, only a few days ago, his newly emerging ally, he is abandoning more territory to terrorists in the Northwest Frontier Province. A report on the ever more worrisome situation in Swat:

The imposition of emergency in Pakistan has not put any pressure on Taliban in Swat district. Taliban have taken over police stations in Matta, Khawazkhela and Charbagh. This scribe visited the Matta police station after the imposition of emergency in Pakistan. Taliban there have replaced the Pakistan’s flag with their own at the police station after more than 120 soldiers surrendered two days ago. Taliban commanders controlling Matta police station were not worried about the emergency.

Immediately after President Musharraf’s speech, the Pakistan Army swapped 25 Taliban fighters for 211 kidnapped soldiers in South Waziristan. There was a feeling of achievement among local militants over the banning of private TV channels all over the country as they think Musharraf had accepted their point of view in this matter.

Taliban leader Maulvi Fazlullah is moving around half of the Swat area like a ruler with full protocol. He has appointed his own ‘governors’ in Kabal, Matta and Khawazkhela. He has also ordered setting up of Islamic courts for providing justice in areas under his control.

Musharraf has given the Taliban and al-Qaeda everything they need to restore and expand their long-standing Pakistani powerbase. He is incapable of inspiring his own military forces to stand against them. As an ally in Pakistan, he is far from the “only show in town.” In fact he is a nightmare for U.S. security concerns.

Appeal from the Chair of the Human Rights Commission
At this point it appears that roughly half of the judges and advocates of Pakistan’s High Court have been placed under arrest by General Musharraf in connection with his State of Emergency, which has specifically targeted lawyers and judges. Here’s an appeal from Asma Jahangir, the chair of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission, now under house arrest

I am fortunate to be under house arrest while my colleagues are suffering. The Musharaf government has declared martial law to settle scores with lawyers and judges. While the terrorists remain on the loose and continue to occupy more space in Pakistan, senior lawyers are being tortured. The civil society of Pakistan urges bar associations all over the world to mobilize public opinion in favor of the judges and lawyers in Pakistan. A
large number of judges of superior courts are under arrest. Thousands of lawyers are imprisoned, beaten and tortured.

In particular the cases of Muneer A Malik, Aitzaz Ahsan, Tariq Mahmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd are serious. Muneer A Malik, the former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and leader of the lawyers’ movement has been
shifted to the notorious Attack Fort. He is being tortured and is under the custody of the military intelligence. Tariq Mahmood, former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, was imprisoned in Adiala jail. No one was
allowed to see him and it is reported that he has been shifted to an unknown place. Mr. Ali Ahmed Kurd, former Vice Chair of the Pakistan Bar Council is in the custody of military intelligence and being kept at an undisclosed
place. Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar is being kept in Adiayala jail in solitary confinement.

Representatives of bar associations should approach their governments to pressure the government of Pakistan to release all lawyers and judges and immediately provide access to Muneer A Malik, Tariq Mahmood, Ali Ahmed Kurd
and Aitzaz Ahsan. The bars are also urged to hold press conferences in their country and express their solidarity with the lawyers of Pakistan who are struggling to establish the rule of law.

Asma Jahangir
Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan
Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Bars in New York Sponsor Demonstration
A letter from Barry Kamins, president of the New York City Bar Association, to the legal community:

As an expression of solidarity with our beleaguered colleagues at the Pakistani bar, the New York City Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, in conjunction with other organizations, invite you to attend a public rally in front of the New York County Courthouse, 60 Centre Street on Tuesday, November 13, from 1:00-1:30 p.m.

The crude and brutal suspension of law and the legal system in Pakistan, and the repression of judges and lawyers there, require that we take a moment from our own busy schedules and demonstrate our concern.

Because the images from Pakistan show the violent repression of Pakistani lawyers wearing their customary dark suit and white shirt, we request that you appear on Tuesday in similar attire, though this is not required. What is important is a strong show of support. We hope to see you there.

Barry Kamins, President, New York City Bar Association

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