Pressures from the Bush administration on the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan are pushing that country into an acute social crisis.
WW photo: Deirdre Griswold
Frustrated in their efforts to conquer Iraq or even poverty-stricken Afghanistan, yet reluctant to deploy their own frazzled troops in even more combat zones, the U.S. imperialist leaders have been leaning heavily on Musharraf to attack Afghan insurgents and any Pakistanis in the border region who might be sympathetic to them.
A Reuters story filed from Miranshah, Pakistan, on July 25 reported that “Several thousand villagers fled a Pakistani tribal region on Wednesday, where an army offensive was expected any day following pressure on Pakistan from the United States to act against al Qaeda cells.”
With antiwar sentiment in the U.S. shaking up the political scene and George W. Bush’s popularity still in the cellar, the U.S. president is desperately playing the Qaeda card in all his public pronouncements, using the “fear factor” generated by 9/11 to justify his continued colonial occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
It remains a fact, however, that the aggressive thrust of the U.S. military into this oil- and gas-rich area of the world has outraged the peoples who live there and is what has inspired many to fight against the foreign invaders. Those fitting this description are not al Qaeda but the U.S. and its partner Britain, the former colonial master in much of the Middle East and South Asia.
In Pakistan, the opposition to Musharraf comes not only from militant Islamic groups—like the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad that was brutally attacked by the Pakistan Army on July 10 on orders from Washington, causing hundreds of casualties—but from secular, democratic forces and also from the Marxist left, which in the past was often the main target of government oppression.
Musharraf came to power in 1999 through a military coup but then managed to get himself named president. This year, according to Pakistan’s constitution, he must be reelected or stand down. He precipitated a constitutional crisis when, in March, he dismissed Chief Justice Muhammad Chaudhry. Huge demonstrations supporting Chaudhry erupted all over the country.
On July 20 the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated the chief justice, ruling that Musharraf’s dismissal of Chaudhry had been illegal. Pakistanis at home and in the diaspora joyfully celebrated this rebuke to the regime.
However, Musharraf has the army and the backing of Washington. He has 80,000 troops in the northwest areas of Pakistan, where opposition to his rule has been most militant. And, should he falter in carrying out Washington’s wishes, the U.S. has already threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age,” according to Musharraf himself in an interview with “60 Minutes” last Sept. 24.
One way or the other, the war for empire begun in Iraq is surely coming to Pakistan. This rapidly deteriorating situation is just another reason why all who struggle for peace and justice should be preparing now to make the Sept. 22-29 anti-war actions in Washington a powerful effort to pull back the imperialists as they throw more troops and money into a war for global domination that even Bush admits is “endless.”
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