The Commonwealth does democracy in

Another pat on the dictator’s back

Pakistan is out of yet another dog-house.

The Commonwealth suspended Pakistan’s membership after General Musharraf overthrew a democratically elected prime minister in a bloodless coup in 1999 and assumed power. Since that time, Musharraf has firmly entrenched himself in the seat of power and further damaged and disfigured every democratic institution. The parliament, judiciary and executive are subservient to him, and while the press has a great degree of freedom, journalists are regularly roughed up when they intrude on matters Musharraf would rather not have publicised.

Elections and referenda have been stage-managed and engineered. The letter of the constitution has been doctored and its spirit perverted. Popular politicians have been expelled or persecuted. Religious extremists have been strengthened with regular doses of political oxygen which have emboldened them like never before in Pakistan’s history. Musharraf is certain to remain in power long after his principal apologists – George W Bush, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Tony Blair – have gone into retirement. Democracy in Pakistan is gasping for air. None of the conditions that caused Pakistan’s suspension have changed – where they have, they have only worsened.

By revoking Pakistan’s suspension the Commonwealth has dealt yet another blow to the Pakistani people, and indeed to its own relevance and credibility. India’s approval of Pakistan’s re-admission into the Commonwealth serves is a shrewd political move; being perceived as a friendly move towards Pakistan. The losers are the Pakistani people, led as they are to believe that political legitimacy in Pakistan arises from international acceptance rather than popular mandate. Thanks to private television channels, millions of common people have witnessed the spectacle of democratic transfer of power taking place in neighbouring India. This has left them amazed, impressed and introspective – and exposed how raw a deal they have received from their military establishment all these years. Instead of siding with the people and nudging Pakistan towards democracy, the Commonwealth has sided with the vested interests that see democracy as a threat.

All this because Musharraf is a bulwark against al Qaeda? Where are bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mulla Omar then? Why are Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Masood Azhar still holding public meetings?

The Commonwealth needs a new symbol. How about an ostrich?

Related Links:

…the Pakistan Peoples’ Party wrote to the Commonwealth against admitting Pakistan as its duty towards democracy in the country. “We wanted to place on record that it is wrong to reward dictatorships. We did it not only for the sake of democracy in Pakistan but also to stop dictators waiting in the wings in other countries from striking,” [The News/Jang]

Update: Musharraf rebukes the Commonwealth’s gesture

President Pervez Musharraf on Monday lashed out at the Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon for making a statement about Pakistan’s internal affairs.

Rejecting McKinnon’s criticism, the president said Pakistan would not accept any conditions linked to the restoration of its membership. “If we are happy to be in the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth should be proud of having a country like Pakistan joining it, so therefore we don’t accept such conditionalities,” he said while addressing the concluding session of the National Students Convention.

Musharraf said some of the countries that made the decision to lift Pakistan’s suspension should look at their own records before criticising others. [Daily Times]

2 thoughts on “The Commonwealth does democracy in”

  1. I agree that the message sent out is wrong. However, I am curious: what tangible relevance and credibility does the Commonwealth hold? The only news I get about the organization is after one of these meetings and perhaps when the Commonwealth games are on.

  2. The Commonwealth does handle some development projects in the developing countries that form a part of it.

    Its action may not make any real difference – but its action signals that another international organisation is willing to accept stinking dictatorships in its midst.

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