And a good test for freedom
The Wall Street Journal has taken exception to the parading of Gen Musharraf along with the world’s other dictators. Pakistan, it argues, is a much freer place because it passes Sharanksy’s ‘town square’ test.
Our one disagreement would be Parade’s mention of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf at number seven, just after Gadhafi. General Musharraf came to power in a military coup, overturning an elected government. But Pakistan remains a far freer place than any other country on the list — and certainly freer than Cuba, whose Fidel Castro rates merely a Parade “dishonorable mention.”
With occasional exceptions, Pakistan passes the test that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice laid out in her confirmation hearing last month: “The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the `town square test,’ ” she said. “If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society.” Pick up a newspaper in Karachi and you’ll read plenty of criticism of General Musharraf, who deserves to be replaced on next year’s list by Fidel, or Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. [WSJ]
Javed Hashmi, an opposition politician remains in prison because he failed the town square test. Shaheen Sehbai, a senior Pakistani journalist, had to flee the country fearing the midnight knock on his door. Rahmat Shah Afridi, publisher of the Frontier Post, went to prison for inadvertantly publishing a blasphemous letter. These are famous men. Even ordinary reporters, like one Mr Afzal Nadeem, finds himself in jail because he dared to publish an official memo exposing rather un-sinister activities of the government. What of the peasants of Okara military farms, who live under the repressive rule of the Pakistani army? If the Wall Street Journal had taken a wider view of Pakistan, it would perhaps not have been so quick to conclude that Musharraf’s Pakistan passes the ‘town square’ test.
Natan Sharansky’s test provides a quick and dirty way of assessing freedom. But freedom is much more than climbing onto soapboxes in town squares or publishing newspaper articles critical of the president. There is another, much better test available, as even Condoleezza Rice would concede — it’s called an election.