Friday, November 16, 2007

Dance The Dance: Negroponte In Pakistan, Benazir Released, War In Swat, Censorship And Lies...

According to AFP (via Dawn), Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is now in Pakistan:

Top US envoy arrives for tough Pakistan visit
ISLAMABAD, Nov 16 (AFP) - Top US diplomat John Negroponte flew into Pakistan Friday to press for an end to President Pervez Musharraf's emergency rule and to establish contact with former premier Benazir Bhutto.

Negroponte, number two to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is the highest ranking US official to come here since President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3.

“I can confirm he has arrived,” US embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton said.

US officials speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed there were plans for Negroponte to speak to Benazir Bhutto but would not give further details or say whether he would meet the two-time prime minister in person.
The AFP writer would have no way of knowing whether Negroponte will actually press Musharraf about anything, much less an end to emergency rule. Negroponte might ask for a few concessions. But can he really press the General? Is he ready to support a coup against the Army chief of staff? I wouldn't think so.

Negroponte wants to set up a power-sharing arrangement with a strategy of tension extension, so to speak: Benazir Bhutto as the pseudo-opposition, Maulana Fazlulla providing the tension, and Musharraf at the helm. And they want to call it democracy.

"Restoring democracy," they say. How quaint!

Psst! It'll never work!
However ...

You want tough?

Forty of Imran Khan's supporters, including three of his sisters, were beaten up on Thursday when they demonstrated against his detention at a market in Lahore
after a brutal baton-charge and thrashing by plainclothes security personnel
according to The News.

Even tougher: the on-again, off-again war in the Swat Valley is on-again and Pakistani troops are claiming 40 Taliban casualties. I'm never sure what to make of reports such as this one. Sometimes when similar reports come from Afghanistan or Iraq, we find out later that what actually happened was somebody dropped a bomb on a sleeping family.

However, the AP says:

Army kills up to 40 militants in Swat
ISLAMABAD, Nov 17 (AP): Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships and artillery attacked pro-Taliban militants in troubled northern Pakistan, killing up to 40 followers of a rebel cleric, the military and officials said Saturday.

The men were killed Thursday in Kuza Banda, Basham and Shangla, three of the militants' strongholds in Swat district, the army said in a statement.

The latest deaths bring militant casualties in the past several days to 100 in Swat, where troops are battling supporters from Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric who has asked his men to wage holy war against the army.
Meanwhile, Dawn also says another petition against the emergency declaration is now before the newly reconstituted Supreme Court. The new court is made up of judges who approved of the emergency and signed their loyalty oaths two weeks ago -- all the others were sacked. But one of the judges wants to recuse himself! And the hearing is slated to resume Monday.

One of my Google Alerts went off today and it said:
Postscript | Full marks to General Musharraf
The Post - Lahore,Punjab,Pakistan
The octogenarian Dr Mubashir Hasan was also amongst some 71 terrorists, including some two dozen female terrorists when they were preparing bombs and hand ...
but when you go to the page, there's nothing there!

And there it vas, ze good satire! Gone!!

I can't help thinking The Post crossed a clearly drawn line by printing satire with the General's name in it (let alone in the headline) and I also can't help wondering whether somebody is in prison for it, or soon will be.

Former Prime Minister and alleged opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been released from house arrest. Salman Masood and David Rhode note that
The gesture appeared timed to ease tensions before the arrival later in the day of the U.S. deputy secretary of state John Negroponte, who was likely to urge Musharraf to lift emergency rule.
"Appeared timed to ease tensions"? Yes! "Likely to urge Musharraf to lift emergency rule"? We'll see about that.

The American line all along has been, "You have to get yourself re-elected." The President General has been doing exactly that.

Now they come along and say, "It has to be free and fair." It's no wonder the President General is upset.

As he sees it,
"The emergency is to ensure elections go in an undisturbed manner."
The emergency is to ensure nothing of the sort, unless "go in an undisturbed manner" means "produce results I find acceptable". But apparently the elections will be mostly undisturbed unless he wants them disturbed. As Ayesha Siddiqa told Sen Lam of Radio Australia:
Generally the emergency has backfired because this is something which was not going to contribute in, in the war on terror. In fact, the judiciary which has been sacked precisely for the reason that was it was you know putting hurdles in, in the war on terror - the judges who actually helped the militants and the extremists are the ones some of them, have they've just been given a, a fresh oath. So you know, there is hypocrisy, there is contradiction in, in government's action and in fact the secular segments of the society and the judiciary have been sacked.
Musharraf has kept the judges who have been helping the militants. How quaint!

Salman Masood and David Rhode quote Benazir Bhutto telling a tale tale:
"Do we want to deny this nation its true legitimate leadership?" she asked. "The West's interests lie in a democratic Pakistan."
A truly democratic Pakistan would be a disaster for the West, of course -- if by "the West" you mean George Bush and his criminal enterprise known as the War On Terror. So her statement sounds wrong all over the world! (Benazir is supposed to be protecting the East's interests, remember?)

The Washington Post caught President General Pervez Musharraf telling an even bigger one:

Musharraf refuses to set date for ending emergency rule
WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (AFP): President General Pervez Musharraf, in an interview published Saturday, reaffirmed his commitment to democracy, but declined to give a timeframe for lifting emergency rule.

If I am a dictator, I don't know what kind of dictator I am,” Musharraf told The Washington Post.

I am the strongest believer in democracy. I brought democracy to Pakistan and I still believe in it.”

He said he was “thinking about” a timeframe for lifting a state of emergency it, but when asked when that could happen, he answered: “I don't know.”
I don't know, either. I am not especially hopeful at this point. But not all the news is bad.

The BBC reports that Asma Jahangir, head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, has been released from detention.

Score one for the good guys.