Holding Bush to account (a continuing series)

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.

President Bush, November 6, 2003

Pakistan continues to preside over a host of discriminatory and dangerous laws and practices for women. And while waxing eloquent about “real democracy,” it was [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf who eviscerated the judiciary by sacking Supreme Court judges who opposed martial law.

Indeed, Pakistan continues to run a pseudodemocracy put in place through elections described as deeply flawed by independent international observers. Musharraf ratified his own position as president through a referendum in which he was the only candidate.

Javed Hashmi, president of the opposition Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, has been sentenced to 23 years in prison. His crime? He read a letter critical of Musharraf to assembled journalists.

The desire of the Bush administration for political stability in Pakistan is no excuse for failing to pursue a proactive human rights agenda with Pakistan. The United States has the leverage, and Pakistan has the experience with democracy, to make it happen. No Muslim country is more able to prove President Bush right, if only he means what he said.

Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, November 1, 2004

Musharraf, an army general who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, signaled again that he may break his promise to surrender his position as head of the Pakistani military by the end of the year. Although he made the promise in an attempt to demonstrate his commitment to restoring full democracy to Pakistan, Musharraf said in the interview that he may retain his dual roles as civilian and military leader to guarantee “the sustainability of our policies.”

But he grew testy at the suggestion that such a move would undermine his country’s democratic development, saying he had taken many steps to empower women and minorities and guarantee a lively and free media. “The amount that I, in uniform, have done for democracy has never been done in the past in Pakistan,” he said. “So let’s not see democracy in the limited scope of [a] uniform. I don’t believe that is the end-all of democracy.” Under his rule, he added, “there is total democracy in Pakistan.”

As he often has in the past, Musharraf characterized himself as the indispensable figure holding together a fractious country that needed to find unity among its political, bureaucratic and military establishments to confront its problems. “At this moment,” he said, “I provide that unity.”

Musharraf said Bush did not push him to relinquish his army post or take any new steps toward democracy. A senior administration official said Musharraf has committed to moving toward full democracy “at a pace that works for Pakistan” and praised his moves so far. “The institutions of democracy are strong; he’s making them stronger,” the official said in a briefing. “He’s made it clear he intends to go the full way.”

The Washington Post, December 5, 2004

Update: Does Bush even know that Pakistan under Musharraf is not a democracy?