Destroying Democracy in Pakistan

During the few years of its existence in which Pakistan has experienced elected governments there was little if any social improvement. The politicians were tossed out by the army in bloodless coups with the approval of the vast majority of the population. But then the military men tasted political power and relished it and wanted to remain top boys.  They were all supported by the United States,  but failed entirely to prepare the country for workable democracy, and when they left, either in disgrace (General Yahya Khan), through a mysterious air crash (General Zia, whose friend the US ambassador died with him; bad call by someone), or by losing a constitutional battle with the judiciary (General Musharraf), the ensuing civilian administrations were, naturally, unskilled in leading a nation and exercising authority.

The present government in Islamabad continues to flounder, but not all the lack of direction is its fault.  Beset by bigoted fanatics whose suicide bombings are indiscriminately savage, and besieged by international preachers, mainly from Washington, who lecture Pakistan about “not doing enough” to combat terrorism, the government has a hard row to hoe. The worldwide economic collapse caused by avaricious banksters in the US and Europe has not helped an economy that looked as if it was getting off its knees before it suffered the double whammy of internal insurrection and external battering by the casino crooks of Wall Street and the City of London.

Sure, it’s depressing to know that so many of Pakistan’s parliamentarians have become dollar millionaires since they were put in power by their impoverished electors, although they’re only following the habits of, for example, the squalid bunch of Members of Parliament in London who have been ripping off the taxpayer for years with fraudulent claims for non-existent ‘expenses’. But the other day the Members of Islamabad’s National Assembly and its Senators took up their patriotic cudgels and decided it was time that Pakistan should assert itself against foreign domination.

In an admirable and unprecedented display of solidarity a joint session of Pakistan’s politicians of all parties  “Strongly asserted that unilateral actions, such as those conducted by the U.S. forces in Abbottabad, as well as the continued drone attacks on the territory of Pakistan, are not only unacceptable but also constitute violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and humanitarian norms and such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith . . .”

Now this is the parliament and people of Pakistan speaking to the most powerful country in the world in blunt terms.  These democratically elected politicians were telling Imperial America that they objected to cowboy killings within their country.  Geronimo was germinal.

They declared that as from 14 May 2011 there must be no more illegal slaughter inside Pakistan by the US.  And the Constitution of the United States is precise about such action.  It is clear from the Articles of Confederation that there can be no attacks on foreign countries by US forces “except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the kingdom or state, and the subjects thereof against which war has been so declared.”

Whamming missiles into Pakistan and blowing people to smithereens, no matter who the target might be, is a criminal act.  And Pakistan’s legislators thought it time to tell the United States that enough is enough.  The weak were answering the strong,  and the weak thought that this time they might get a hearing.  The mighty empire to whom they were appealing just might permit a pause, discussions, negotiations, concerning the expression of disquiet by a democratically elected parliament. They thought that international democracy and diplomacy might be given a chance to work.

Not a hope.

Because then, predictably enough, came the smash in the face.  The US decided to deliver the ultimate insult to Pakistan’s Parliament and people.

Less than 48 hours after the statement by Pakistan’s National Assembly that there should  be consideration given to a sovereign country’s democratic pleas,  “Two US drone strikes targeting a militant compound and a vehicle in Pakistan’s lawless tribal district of North Waziristan killed at least nine people on Monday [16 May] . . . the drones fired two missiles into a militant compound, and minutes later another drone fired two missiles at a vehicle nearby.”

Get the message?

The message is clear, in that the elected representatives of  Pakistan can pass whatever resolutions they wish, but the United States of America will ignore them.  Not only was Pakistan humiliated over the Davis affair, when that CIA thug killed two citizens of Pakistan and got away with murder and was spirited out of the country instead of facing criminal charges, but the US is intent on grinding Pakistan’s dignity even further into the gutter. The 16 May drone strike was followed next day by yet another whoopee yippee missile-blasting attack on two Pakistan army checkpoints near the Afghan border by US helicopters. Two soldiers were injured.  No apologies, of course.

The United States cares not a fig for Pakistan’s democracy, or for any other democracy, come to that.  The Obama administration has shown that it is preposterously hypocritical by attacking Libya, which is ruled by a whacky dictator who persecutes some of his citizens, while maintaining the US Gulf Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, which is ruled by a whacky dictator who persecutes most of his citizens. The only difference between these two places is that the western publicity machines concentrate on Libya and ignore anything adverse about Bahrain’s unelected monarch, whose rule enslaves 80 per cent of his subjects. If ever there was a candidate for democracy, it’s Bahrain. But forget it, because the King is a Washington Best Buddy.  Soldiers from other Arab states have marched into to Bahrain to help subjugate its citizens, with the approval of the US and the rest of the west, while in Libya the zooming jet jockeys of Nato have fun trying to assassinate Gaddafi.

Likewise, Pakistan’s Parliament is powerless against the arrogant might of the United States.  It can pass resolutions until the drones come home, and nobody in Washington will pay the slightest heed.  It seems that for Pakistan legislators to declare “such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith” is a direct invitation to increase the carnage.  Pakistan can’t do a damn thing about this blatant provocation.  The indignity inflicted on Pakistan  as a nation is not only insolent and illegal, it is lip-smackingly, sneeringly triumphal.

Pakistan’s democracy is shaky.  It needs all the help it can get both domestically and internationally if its government is to prove that Pakistan can look after itself properly and for the long term. But on the international scene Pakistan’s democracy is being torn to bits. It’s not being ignored ? it’s being contemptuously ripped to shreds by drone-fired missiles and the rockets and bombs from foreign aircraft sweeping illegally over its borders.

Economically it would be disastrous for Pakistan to cut ties with its savage and arrogant paymaster. But these kill-crazy video-game cowboy desperadoes who merrily bombard the world without fear of retaliation just might take pause if Pakistan did one thing :  stop, instantly, the entire flow of war material passing through Pakistan to Afghanistan, and forbid all flights in Pakistan’s airspace by any US aircraft.

Another option could be to issue orders to the Pakistan Air Force to shoot down the drones, which it is quite entitled to do under international law. (Imagine what the US would do if a Mexican or Venezuelan drone were to zoom over Arizona, targeting drug smugglers who were US nationals  . . . )

These might seem extreme retaliatory measures. But a country can’t just sit back and be treated with the derision, disrespect, and insolent contempt that Pakistan is suffering at the moment at the hands of a supposed ally.  Enough is enough. If democracy is to survive in Pakistan ? and heaven forbid there be a rerun of past years of military rule ? then its government  must be seen to be supported by the world’s most expansive democratic state.

Confrontation looms.  And the US will be the eventual loser.

Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com


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Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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