The Military Waits in the Wings: Pakistan in Uncertain Times

Deepak Tripathi

Old enemies seldom make easy bedfellows. This is what we see in Pakistan today. Now that President Pervez Musharraf, once the military strongman, has been forced out, the shaky alliance of the two most powerful civilian politicians, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, is unraveling. The euphoria over the defeat of Musharraf’s party in the February parliamentary elections has evaporated. The aim which had brought Zardari and Sharif together has been achieved. And their old hostilities are, once again, coming to the fore.

I have been an observer of Pakistan’s troubled and unhappy journey for over thirty years. And I must say that the sudden outbreak of hope after the victory for the democratic forces last February had not been seen for a long time in the country. The election result had clear messages from the electorate to those it sees as controlling the destiny of Pakistan. First, to the military, which has ruled the country for more than half of the period since independence in 1947; and which, under General Musharraf, subverted the judiciary above all. Second, to America, whose role in shaping Pakistan’s policies is seen by the electorate as unacceptable interference, exercised through the Bush administration’s proxy, Musharraf. More

The Breaking Point: A New Age of Torture

Deepak Tripathi

The recent appearance of Dr Aafia Siddiqi in a New York court (August 5) has brought another disturbing episode in the ‘war on terror’ of President George W Bush to light. According to a  lawyer acting for Dr Siddiqui, an American-educated scientist of Pakistani origin, her client was brought to New York after spending several years in US custody at an unknown place, thought to be the Bagram air base in Afghanistan. While in detention, she suffered ‘horrendous physical and psychological torture’. The American authorities claimed that they captured Dr Siddiqui only in July 2008, accusing her of attacking US military officers and being an Al-Qaeda operative. These charges have been dismissed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

The case has drawn international attention and comes at a time when the Bush administration, in its last few months, appears determined to put as many detainees captured during its ‘war on terror’ as possible on trial. According to Dr Siddiqui’s lawyer, New York has been chosen as the venue for her trial because it is the city of Twin Towers, where the sentiment is likely to be most prejudicial and the November elections are close. Just before Dr Siddiqui was produced in court in New York, a US military commission in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp convicted and sentenced Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, to five-and-a-half years in prison. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both criticised the Guantanamo trial as falling below the acceptable standards of justice.

The crisis for human rights has grown to unprecedented proportions since 9/11. On the day Amnesty International published its 2007 human rights assessment worldwide, its message reflected something that had become increasingly obvious. The ‘war on terror’ had left a long trail of human rights abuses and created deep divisions that cast a shadow on international relations, making the world more dangerous. In one of the strongest repudiations of the policies of Western governments, the Secretary-General of Amnesty, Irene Khan, said: “The politics of fear are fuelling a downward spiral of human rights abuses in which no right is sacrosanct and no person safe.” More

From Georgia to a New Cold War: A Pawn in Their Game

Deepak Tripathi

The conflict between Russia and the pro-US regime of Georgia has been a decisive turning-point in Russia’s relations with Washington and has taken us to the brink of a new Cold War.  

For the first time in almost twenty years, the West faces a resurgent Russia that has put the trauma of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the resulting chaos behind. Today’s Russia is run by a younger leadership with autocratic efficiency, confident because of its vast energy resources and determined to resist American hegemony, by force if necessary. The crisis in Georgia goes beyond the Caucasus region. Its roots lie in America’s overwhelming ambition to expand and its tendency to make colossal miscalculations under the Bush presidency. More

The essence of patriotism

Deepak Tripathi

An election year in America guarantees a debate about patriotism, particularly when the country is at war. It is not a political discourse about a citizen’s moral duty to do what they can to serve their country. I mean a debate in which patriotism is used as a weapon of attack in a brutish and nasty manner for character assassination, to depict a hitherto established politician as a dangerous or juvenile individual, who cannot be trusted with national security. Such tactics were deployed at their worst against Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election by his Republican opponent, George Bush Senior. Bush Junior, the current incumbent in the White House, used the weapon of patriotism against John Kerry, whose notable war record was disparaged by the neo-conservatives.  

I have been an observer of US politics for well over three decades. Experience tells me that the Republicans have an advantage in this nasty, brutish fight and are willing to deploy the weapon of patriotism ruthlessly against their opponents. In the election campaign that has barely started, there have been some bruising episodes in the Democratic nomination battle as well. I recall Hillary Clinton’s warning that if the Iranian regime threatened Israel, she, as president, would obliterate the Iranian nation. I, a European, found the rhetoric frightening. Had President Ahmadinejad of Iran not used exactly the same kind of rhetoric, wishing that Israel was not on the map? So what was the difference? One meant to impress Iran’s Shi’a population. The other America’s Jewish voters. I do not believe either Ahmadinejad or Clinton was serious about obliterating any country. They know very well the consequences. More