Pakistan falls into a categorical déjà vu; Musharraf resigns

September 23, 2008 — by Uttara Sivaram

It is hard to resist a man in uniform…

Following 9/11, the United States found itself in dire need of an ally in the Middle East who would help clean up Afghanistan. Fortunately for us, Pervez Musharraf stood as the president of Pakistan, a well-bred man who spoke fluent English with a slight British accent, wore a no-nonsense moustache just as crisp as his suit, and appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”. To many Americans, this man could do no wrong.

It’s been seven years since America was taken in with Musharraf’s seemingly agreeable ways (not to mention his impressive appearance), turning a blind eye to his many misdeeds. Musharraf had come into power through a coup d’etat of a democratically elected government under Nawaz Sharif. During his eight years in power, he had appointed himself both president and the head of the army, suspended the constitution and dismissed the chief justice.

Evidently, America’s sight was selective. Instead of keeping Musharraf at arm’s length, the U.S. contributed to his military arsenal and supported him politically. America tripped over itself to help him, and was rewarded when Musharraf assisted in the United States’ overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, the United States’ aid has come to nothing. Musharraf relinquished his title as president of Pakistan after Parliament threatened to impeach him should he fail to resign and has left the country in a relatively bad state of affairs: Benazir Bhutto’s corruption-charged husband Asif Zardari has taken office while the economy, though in a slightly better state than it was with Nawaz Sharif, continues to flatline.

The U.S. must take some of the blame regarding the current state of affairs in Pakistan. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, pressured Musharraf to improve his reputation as the leader of Pakistan by holding elections, worsening the situation. Against his better judgment, Musharraf decided to appease the U.S., grudgingly allowing former political leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to fly back into the country for the elections. Bhutto was subsequently killed while under the protection of the Pakistani government, cementing Musharraf’s image as a dictator who eliminates all competition.

For the U.S. foreign policy, it is déjà vu all over again. Pinochet’s coup in Chile? Troop intervention in Nicaragua? We’ve seen those movies before. Musharraf is just another example of the United States propping up a leader, tying his hands and then watching in confusion as the country slowly crumbles under his rule. The real question is, would the situation be better if instead of getting involved, the United States had pulled back its meddling hands and just twiddled its thumbs? Because now that is about all there is to do as we helplessly watch the situation in Pakistan go from bad to worse.