THE HILL 11/07/07
By Michael Shank
In the Nov. 6 article “Pakistan’s emergency may mean its aid is cut,” Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are teaching the U.S. Defense and State departments a valuable lesson vis-a-vis the critical importance of a consistent U.S. foreign policy. Contrary to the muted response from Pentagon officials and passive criticism from the secretary of state, the chairmen of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees are threatening to pull aid from Pakistan.
Levin and Leahy realize that in order for the U.S. to be credible in its indictments of Venezuelan media censorship, Iranian intimidation of activists and Egyptian imprisonment of opposition, the U.S. must more assertively chasten Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for imposing emergency rule, shutting down private media and jailing human rights activists and opposition candidates.
By allowing Pakistan’s president to proceed apace, unfettered by rigorous U.S. opposition that includes an announced withdrawal of military aid, the U.S. starkly undermines its work elsewhere to promote freedom and democracy.
Musharraf has lost nearly all public support. Any efforts now to retain power will be of the dictatorial nature, shown in his recent arrest of 200 personnel from the Human Rights Commission’s office in Lahore, an organization of high repute with which I worked during my time in Pakistan. That the commission is no longer safe to operate freely is an indication of desperate measures by a president in desperate times.
U.S. State and Defense department officials, consequently, must countenance the fact that continued complicity in the Musharraf maelstrom will only undermine, not assist, U.S. foreign policy objectives, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere. Thankfully, Levin and Leahy already realize this.
From Michael Shank, analyst, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University