Not too long ago most CNN war bulletins raved about General Pervez Musharraf. On September 19, President Bush showered praises on Pakistan’s leader for taking a “bold position” in the fight against terrorism. Two months later, Bush praised Pakistan as a “strong ally” and Musharraf as a “strong leader”.
Last year, while addressing the United Nations, Bush again praised Pakistan for aiding the US in its “hour of need.” On 29 December, Bush told the press that he was “pleased to note that Musharraf has announced the arrest of 50 extremists and hope India takes note of it.” On 12 January Musharraf addressed the nation. The following day President Bush called Musharraf and praised his speech as being “candid, courageous, and statesman-like”.
Over the past couple of weeks, the tide of praises from the West somehow seems to be changing direction. On 25 March, The New York Times in an editorial commented that: “General Musharraf’s plan to try to legitimize his military rule with a referendum this year is unacceptable and should be discouraged by Washington. He needs to hold free and fair elections”. The NYT added: “since its independence and partition with India in 1947, Pakistan has been ruled mostly by military dictatorships. As a result, its political system has never been allowed to mature. Instead, it has been corrupted by organized criminal groups, extremist Islamic organizations financed from overseas and a powerful but covert military organization known as the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.”
On March 26, The Guardian wrote: “One sure way for General Musharraf to strengthen his position is to restore the constitution and hold free, fair national elections next October, as previously promised. This, rather than some bogus presidential referendum in May, could give him the mandate and the legitimacy that his 1999 coup failed to confer.”
On March 28, The Washington Post carried a very harshly worded opinion piece by Jim Hoagland. The piece is titled “Pakistan: Pretense of an Ally.” It starts out by asserting: “President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have done everything possible to enlist Pakistan as a full ally in the war on al-Qaeda and global terrorism. But Pakistan has not responded with the active support that Bush demands from every state that is ‘with’ the United States in this conflict. President Pervez Musharraf’s failure to match promises with sustained action undermines Bush’s campaign to make his war on terrorists a clear struggle of good vs. evil. Other nations will quickly notice the Pakistani shortfall and follow suit by mouthing deceptive words and taking evasive action.” The last paragraph actually compares Pakistan with Iraq, America’s archenemy. “False allies are often more troublesome for America than declared enemies. The moral and diplomatic drift on Pakistan now strongly resembles the failure of the first Bush administration on Iraq in the late 1980s…Iraq was seen as too important to confront – or even to describe its actions truthfully. The second Bush administration is on the road to making exactly the same mistake with Pakistan.”
To be certain, the mainstream thinking in the corridors of power in and around Washington may not be as devotedly against Pakistan as Hoagland’s, but it does not take long for things to change.
Published in Pakistan Internet weekly thefridaytimes.