Monday, April 5, 2010

Pakistan moves further toward democracy; could become a role model for other Muslim states

“None of these achievements is being praised by the right-of-center US press or the liberal imperialists.  That is because the United States did not spur these developments. The Pakistani public (including humble street crowds) did it themselves, and if anything the US was nervous about losing its favorite military dictator and terrified that democracy would bring instability…”

The Pakistani government on Friday tabled a proposed 18th amendment to the constitution, which if enacted will be an enormous advance toward democratization in the country.

I was watching Bill Maher last week and Christopher Hitchens remarked on the Iraqi elections that they "didn't used to happen" under Saddam Hussein. Likewise, free elections did not happen under Gen. Zia ul-Haq in 1980s Pakistan, or in 1999-2007 under Gen. Pervez Musharraf. And in the 1990s, presidents kept using the martial law amendments to the constitution of Gen. Zia to arbitrarily dismiss elected prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

But US hawks and Neoconservatives are not celebrating this epochal bill in Pakistan. I ask myself why.

I think it is because Neoconservatism and the arguments of all those who favor democratization at the barrel of a gun are fundamentally Orientalist in character. In some ways they go back to Karl Marx, who in his journalism on India argued that the capitalist British Empire was necessary to shake Indian villages out of their millennia-long sluggishness, from which they could never escape on their own.

During the past 3 years, the Pakistani public has demonstrated repeatedly and on a large scale in favor of the rule of law and the reinstatement of the Supreme Court justices dismissed by dictator Gen. Musharraf. Mind you, they are making a case for civil law and the civil supreme court, not for sharia or Islamic law. They voted in the center-left Pakistan People's Party in February 2008, and the return to parliamentary rule ultimately, in August 2008, allowed the political parties to unite to toss out of office Gen. Musharraf, who had had himself declared a civilian 'president' and was in danger of being impeached for alleged corruption.

That is, the Pakistani public has conducted a 'color revolution' of its own, in the teeth of opposition or skittishness in Washington, and managed to overturn a military dictatorship that had been backed to the hilt by Bush-Cheney, restoring parliamentary governance. …

Pakistan Moves Further Toward Democracy; Could become a Role Model for Other Muslim states

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