Indian Democracy & Pakistan’s Dictatorship

The week start­ed with strong-voiced op-eds in the WSJ, NYT, & Chica­go Tri­bune about Musharraf’s predica­ment and what the US should do about it.

New York Times says “But nobody takes Gen­er­al Musharraf’s demo­c­ra­t­ic claims seri­ous­ly any­more, except for the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, which has put itself in the embar­rass­ing posi­tion of prop­ping up the Mus­lim world’s most pow­er­ful mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor as an essen­tial ally in its half-baked cam­paign to pro­mote democ­ra­cy through­out the Mus­lim world. Wash­ing­ton needs to dis­en­tan­gle Amer­i­ca, quick­ly, from the general’s dam­ag­ing embrace.”

Chica­go Tri­bune is down-to-earth: “Pakistan’s six-decade his­to­ry as a sov­er­eign nation has been dom­i­nat­ed by mil­i­tary coups and mul­ti­ple rewrit­ings of its con­sti­tu­tion. Democ­ra­cy has been lit­tle more than a rumor based on a myth based on a fairy tale.”

Acknowl­edg­ment: I got the above sto­ries from the excel­lent blog by the best-sell­ing author of “Pakistan’s Drift Into Extrem­ism”, Has­san Abbas.

Mean­while, strik­ing when the iron is get­ting hot­ter, Nawaz Sharif opens him­self up with Shekhar Gup­ta in Walk The Talk on NDTV 24x7. Some quotes:

  • Vaj­pay­ee thought I had stabbed him in the back. He did not know I myself was stabbed in the back by Mushar­raf.
  • Well, our gen­er­als have been try­ing to scare our own peo­ple more than the ene­my.
  • For the 60 years of Pakistan’s his­to­ry:
  • 27 years were democ­ra­cies ruled by 15 to 17 prime min­is­ters

  • 33 years were dic­ta­tor­ships ruled by 3 or 4 Pak­istani gen­er­als

  • Even Musharraf’s close con­fi­dants, his corps com­man­ders and two chiefs of the armed forces, the Chief of Air Staff, and the Chief of Naval Staff, were not aware of the Kargil adven­ture.

Inter­est­ing­ly, an arti­cle on about the same show, reveals some more than what’s pub­lished online in the Indi­an Express site: I won’t accept any Indo-Pak deal, says Nawaz Sharif.

Frankly, I don’t recog­nise Mr Mushar­raf as the legit­i­mate pres­i­dent of Pak­istan. I don’t recog­nise Mr Musharraf’s gov­ern­ment as the legit­i­mate gov­ern­ment. He is guilty of sub­vert­ing the Constitution…So if I accept this doc­u­ment, or a treaty that Mr Mushar­raf signs with India, then it amounts to giv­ing recog­ni­tion to Mr Mushar­raf. Or legit­imis­ing his gov­ern­ment. So there is a prin­ci­ple involved. For me, it is very dif­fi­cult to com­pro­mise on that principle.For a res­o­lu­tion of the Kash­mir issue, Sharif hoped that India would be a bit more patient, wait for democ­ra­cy to be installed in Pak­istan again. When told that India can’t wait for­ev­er, he said, “What is the hur­ry? Why is India so impatient…Democracy is com­ing back to Pak­istan, it is always good that two democ­ra­cies talk to each oth­er, rather than a democ­ra­cy talk­ing to dic­ta­tor­ship.”

Hmmm. I must say the hope of talk­ing with a demo­c­ra­t­ic Pak­istan over Kash­mir is indeed a bet­ter pic­ture than the grim sit­u­a­tion of talk­ing with a com­mu­nist dic­ta­to­r­i­al Chi­na over Arunachal Pradesh. How­ev­er, inter­na­tion­al diplo­mat­ic rela­tion­ships can­not be pure­ly based on hope.

The answer to the ques­tion “Is Musharraf’s gov­ern­ment in Pak­istan legit­i­mate?” is not giv­en by India or any oth­er for­eign coun­try. Even if the world’s super­pow­er decides oth­er­wise, it doesn’t win (see WSJ op-ed by Max Boot). It is an answer that can only be giv­en by Pakistan’s peo­ple. If they choose to let him rule as a dic­ta­tor, his gov­ern­ment is ‘legit­i­mate’ — in that it is a gov­ern­ment rec­og­nized by major­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al coun­tries and the UN. This also means that for­eign coun­tries can legit­i­mate­ly sell weapons to his gov­ern­ment, World Bank can legit­i­mate­ly fund projects in Pak­istan, and so on (if they choose to, of course).

If the peo­ple of Pak­istan do not want Musharraf’s rule, and this leads to protests, and full-blown civ­il war, then the ques­tion of legit­i­ma­cy aris­es, as it did in so many coun­tries (Philip­pines, South Korea, Tai­wan, Chile, etc.) where dic­ta­tor­ships were over­thrown by its peo­ple. If the extent of civ­il war in a coun­try is so severe as to sig­nif­i­cant­ly desta­bi­lize it, then it fol­lows that oth­er inter­na­tion­al coun­tries can­not make any ‘legit­i­mate’ deals with its unsta­ble and ille­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment. Any such deals are like­ly to be viewed with sus­pi­cion and scru­ti­nized in the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty.

While there are strong voic­es about democ­ra­cy ris­ing in Pak­istan, it is still just a begin­ning. Mushar­raf is still ensconced in pow­er, though his days may be num­bered. There is noth­ing ille­git­i­mate about India mak­ing any deals with Pakistan’s Mushar­raf gov­ern­ment as long as he’s not oust­ed.

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