Saturday 2 May 2009

Hands off our democracy, Mr. Obama!

Worst democracy is better than best of military dictatorships. Problem is that in order to achieve its own strategic interests the strongest democracy in the world whose presidents have now begun to anoint themselves to the leadership of the free world prefers military dictators over democratic leaders when it comes to Pakistan.

I am referring to American preference for military over civilian governments in Pakistan. For two out of the last three decades Pakistan was ruled by military dictators who being mindful of their illegitimacy have more of less been America's errand boys in the region - from creation of Taliban menace in the eighties to fight America's proxy war against the Soviet Union to the war against Taliban in post 9/11 Afghanistan General Zia and Musharraf have been at American beck and call leading Pakistan from one mess into another.

With the arrival of a level headed person like Barrack Obama in the White House one could be forgiven for expecting some balanced policy making from the US Administration. But reading Mr. Obama's statements on Pakistan any such illusions are easily removed. His recent statements like “I’m more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don’t seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services: schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of the people" and “you’re starting to see the Pakistani military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists” appear to be encouraging those who believe that a military government in Pakistan is better placed to respond to the problems in the region. And when you hear General David Petraeus saying that "the next two weeks are critical to the Pakistani government’s survival" you see a concerted pressure building on civilian government while encouraging possible military adventurism.

Mr. Obama also appears to be kidding himself when he states that “On the military side, you’re starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally”. I would like to believe that his policy advisers have perhaps not briefed him fully on two points (1) Pakistani generals are very intelligent politicians/diplomats in their own right and that only they can convince Americans (2) that Pakistan army will can change its sixty year old doctrine on India being the enemy number one in just couple of weeks. Otherwise he would not be expecting a change of six decades old military policy and encouraging the generals to become rulers again.

After around ten years of messing around with Pakistan the Pakistan army has been back to normal duty for just over a year and I suggest that Mr. Obama keeps his encouragements to himself and let the fledgling young democracy in Pakistan flourish.

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