Saturday, December 26, 2009

It Appears Zardari’s Days as Washington’s Man in Islamabad Are Numbered

By Eric Margolis

Washington is finally getting some of the democracy it has long been calling for in Pakistan. The result is a disaster for US "Afpak" policy.

The Obama administration is fast discovering that its man in Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari, may be an even bigger ethical and managerial liability than its overseer in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai.

Over the years, I’ve met every Pakistani leader save the current one, President Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto. But I’ve written for decades about corruption charges that relentlessly dog him. At one point, I was threatened with having acid thrown in my face if I kept writing about the Bhutto-Zardari’s financial scandals.

Asif Ali Zardari became known to one and all as "Mr. 10%" from the time when he was a minister in his wife’s government, in charge of approving government contracts. Critics say the 10% and other brazen kickbacks produced millions for the Zardari-Bhutto family.

But Benazir Bhutto repeatedly insisted to me that she and her husband – who was tortured and jailed for years on corruption charges – were innocent, victims of political persecution in Pakistan’s utterly corrupt legal system where "justice" goes to the biggest payer of bribes, and politicians use courts to punish their rivals. Small wonder so many Pakistanis are calling for far more honest and swifter, if more draconian, Islamic justice.

In 2008, Washington sought to rescue Musharraf’s foundering dictatorship by convincing the popular Benazir Bhutto, who has exiled herself to Dubai, to front for him as democratic window-dressing for continued military rule. Her price: amnesty for a long list of corruption charges against her and her husband. The US and Britain quietly arranged the amnesty for the Bhuttos and thousands of their indicted supporters (and other political figures).

Benazir confided in me she had a secret plan to oust Musharraf once she got back into power. Just before her assassination, Benazir also told me jealous associates of Musharraf were gunning for her.

Asif Zardari then inherited Benazir’s Pakistan People’s Party, the nation’s largest, as a sort of personal property. He became president, thanks to strong US and British political and financial support. His rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was regarded by the western powers as insufficiently supportive of the war in Afghanistan, and too independent-minded.

Zardari repaid America’s support by facilitating the US war in Afghanistan, and allowed the Pentagon to keep using Pakistan’s bases and military personnel, without which the war in Afghanistan could not be prosecuted. Washington promised Pakistan’s elite, pro-western leadership at least $8 billion.

That sleazy deal has now come unstuck thanks to Pakistan’s newest, rather improbable democratic hero, Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. As chief justice of the Supreme Court under Musharraf, Chaudhry was expected to rubber stamp government decisions.

Instead, Justice Chaudhry began enforcing the law by reinstating the dismissed corruption charges and examining the legality of Musharraf’s self-appointed second term.

Musharraf had Justice Chaudhry kicked off the bench. He, and a score of fellow judges who would not toe the line, were placed under house arrest. Some were beaten. Their pensions were canceled.

Shamefully, Washington and London, who claim to be waging war in Afghanistan to bring it democracy, gave Musharraf a green light to purge Pakistan’s judiciary.

But the ebbing of Zardari’s power has resulted in the reinstatement by parliament of Justice Chaudhry, who promptly reinstated all the old charges. For the first time, Pakistan was tasting the true institutions of democracy at work. Its US-engineered regime is running scared.

Read the full article here.

No comments:

Post a Comment