President At His
By Tarek Fatah
17 March, 2007
If there is one incident that
exposes the disingenuous nature of George Bush's "war on terror"
and his "crusade" to bring democracy to the Muslim world,
it was on full public display in Pakistan last Friday. In an unprecedented
move, Pakistan's military ruler, and America's No. 1 ally in the region,
General Pervez Musharraf, dismissed the country's chief justice and
placed him under house arrest.
The Pakistani dictator, better known on the streets of Karachi and Islamabad
as Gen. Busharraf, did not stop there. He rode roughshod over the country's
constitution, forming a so-called Supreme Judicial Council, which he
ordered to investigate allegations of "misconduct" against
the chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. The general, who is head
of Pakistan's armed forces, also ordered the judicial panel to conduct
its investigations behind closed doors and made it a punishable offence
to report on its proceedings.
While the United States has been vocal in denouncing dictators such
as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, it continues to praise Gen. Musharraf.
Just a day before the judicial coup in Islamabad, the U.S. ambassador
to Pakistan told reporters he was "fully satisfied with Islamabad's
role" in combatting the Taliban. "What we have done together
. . . is a great reflection of our ties," he said. If Gen. Musharraf
is what the Americans have to offer as an alternative to Saddam Hussein,
then heaven help the Muslim world.
So why would Gen. Musharraf oust Pakistan's chief justice?
Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan, told me:
"The chief justice had been seen by the military regime as a direct
threat to the implementation of their economic, political and social
agenda. He was removed because he stopped the privatization of Pakistan
Steel Mills and was an obstacle in the American neo-liberal agenda for
the region." Indeed, the selling of Pakistan's massive public-sector
Steel Mills, to a Saudi venture capital group that included Russian
investors and a Pakistani group with links to the country's Prime Minister,
created an uproar.
Independent analysts had valued Steel Mills at $5-billion, but Gen.
Musharraf's government sold it to the Saudi-led consortium for a mere
$362-million. The price tag was so low that a former Steel Mills chairman
said: "They could have got more money by selling Pakistan Steel
Mills as scrap."
All seemed to be proceeding well for the Saudis until a Pakistani Supreme
Court judge, acting on a petition that said the plant was a "strategic
asset" being sold in haste at a throwaway price, suspended the
2006 sale. Last June, the Supreme Court ordered the cancellation of
And the judge who stopped the Saudi-Russian group from stealing a Pakistani
steel mill? None other than Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Fatima Bhutto, a prominent young Pakistani journalist, told me: "The
army has removed elected presidents and prime ministers before, so removing
the chief justice of the country is not a big deal for them." Ms.
Bhutto, 24, is the granddaughter of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto, who was hanged by another U.S.-backed military dictator, General
Mohammed Zia ul-Haq.
Ms. Bhutto believes the chief justice was dismissed because he had been
involved in hearing cases related to human-rights abuses, especially
those regarding the disappearances of thousands of citizens. He has
also been at the forefront of cases dealing with excessive use of force
by the Pakistani police, and had exasperated them by "not only
taking those cases but also making decisions against the police."
She said her own father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto, "was assassinated
in one such example of an extrajudicial killing carried out by the Pakistani
For too long, the United States has propped up military dictators in
Pakistan. For too long, the people of Pakistan have suffered as pawns,
first in the Cold War, then in the American-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan,
and now in a fake war on terror. It is time for Washington to stop backing
Gen. Musharraf, and it is time that it demand free and fair elections
be held without intimidation and harassment.
If the Americans believe Gen. Musharraf has been fighting Islamic radicals
and extremists, they are sadly mistaken. On Wednesday, two men and a
woman were publicly stoned and shot to death in northwestern Pakistan
on the orders of a tribal council that found them guilty of adultery.
Tarek Fatah, a native of Pakistan, is host of The Muslim
Chronicle on CTS-TV and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. He
is author of Chasing a Mirage: A State of Islam or an Islamic State,
to be published next year. This
article was first published in The
Globe and Mail, Toronto