For God’s Sake Musharraf, Free Imran Khan and Other Political Dissenters That You Have Detained

The fiasco in Pakistan continues. The strongman ‘El Presidente’ Musharraf continues to lock up anyone who dissents and the very basis of democracy is now gravely injured and lying on the side of the road somewhere between Lahore and Islamabad. The Analogy of Rome burning whilst we are all asleep is a very apt one. Who can forget history when today’s ‘friend’ becomes tomorrow’s rogue state and rogue administration. Yet, our own Foreign Office has not been robust in making it clear that dissidents like Imran Khan and the thousands of others detained need to be released and the General must never enforce martial law under the complete lie of an Islamist threat. It is clear that the Islamist threat was a smoke and mirrors routine where all opposition could be suppressed to keep Musharraf in power. What a manipulation of the powers of the State that was.

And for those who say that he is needed in the fight against terrorism, I say, what kind of an impression are we giving the world? One day we oust Saddam and then when democracy is trampled on in another country, we say that the leader is an ally and a ‘trusted friend’ in the fight against terrorism. The scourge of terrorism can be reduced (lets be real and stop lying to the public – terrorism can never be fully removed from the political landscape), though we should not do this at the price of our democratic principles. Yet, we are doing it again!

I therefore urge the Foreign Office to make representations to the Pakistani Government on those detained (for no other basis but on their political dissent). Today Mohammed Ali Jinnah (the Founder of Pakistan) must be turning in his grave at the militarism of the country and the way that State institutions have been turned against the people. Pakistan and it’s people deserve better. Free Imran Khan should be our chant today, tomorrow and for however long it takes.

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Remembering The Past For The Future

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, services right across the country took place to commemorate the fallen in the Great Wars and within others. It was a sombre occasion for many that brought home the horrors of war and the chance to reflect upon those not here since they truly had ‘given their today’s for our tomorrows.’

In a world where conflict is caused by the lack of access to limited resources, there will I am afraid, be more wars that spark up across the globe. As populations rise, resources dwindle and arms are more readily available, the chances of war and armed conflict rise and we should all be aware that many more young people will carry arms and die in the heat of battle. I for one want to see diplomacy used more often than not and post Iraq, the information to go to war must have Parliamentary scrutiny and a vote within the House. Oversight and scrutiny committees need to do their jobs and not rubber stamp calls for war and I am afraid that the juggernaut for war under Blair mean that key questions by were not asked by scrutiny committees overseeing the intelligence evidence presented to them.

For those countries who choose the bullet rather than the soft pressures of diplomacy, we should make it clear that they will be harming their future and the future of their country. War and the terrible ravages of it need to be consigned to the past, yet the awful truth is that arms sales and the atrocities of war will continue. Yesterday was a chance to remember the courageous and the bold who should not be forgotten. Let us remember today those who were lost so many years ago. They may have gone, but they are not forgotten.

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Pakistan is Convulsing Through Dictatorial Measures

The decision by General Musharraf to impose martial law has set back Pakistan in the eyes of other nations, especially when so many nations realise that military rule is not only socially counter-productive, it is also leads to economic disaster. Today, Pakistan is virtually overwhelmed by the economic powerhouse that India has become and frankly I cannot conceive that India would ever tear up their governance framework and turn to the imposition of martial law. In fact, India has moved on and does not spend the enormous sums of resources on being a counterweight to Pakistan and this position came about 5 / 6 years ago when India realised that constantly worrying about military conflict with Pakistan was actually damaging the nation. Since then, it has moved on, though Pakistan is still convulsing from one military dictatorship to another.

What is even more revolting about the imposition of martial law is that the Prime Minister has stated that it will be imposed indefinitely and where a ‘code of conduct’ for the State must be imposed. The Prime Minister also went onto say that Pakistan cannot have the media moving into ‘unchartered territories,’ a clear threat to the press suggesting that the State will censor and challenge press freedoms. Today, the very tiny shoots of democracy that were trying to grow within Pakistan have been trampled upon by the jackboot of militarism and dictatorship. In fact, General Musharraf in his public statement to the nation made it clear that Pakistan should not be judged by the yardsticks of democracy used by other nations. Such a nauseating statement should get only the contempt that it deserves and this medal clad dictator should be publicly berated for the illegitimate stance that he has taken.

Opposition leaders like Imran Khan and a whole swath of others have been put under house arrest and have been moved to detention camps whilst the Prime Minister and his henchmen spin the sorry tale that so many dictators have spun. “The nation is in danger from terrorism, it deserves the introduction of harsh measures for national security etc etc.” This rhetorical nonsense is a mere cover for the lack of governance and leadership that General Musharraf has shown and where he has resided on growing inequalities in Pakistan. Poverty levels and factionalism has grown exponentially under his administration as have sordid deals with the very extremists that he says he is fighting against. Today, Pakistan’s pride and standing globally has been severely injured and I am afraid that it will take at least a decade or two before it can be taken seriously by other nations.

General Musharraf certainly deserves an accolade as a leader who belongs in the 1970’s and 1980’s South American hall of fame for autocrats and dictators. Even South American leaders have moved on and are instigating social change for their people and trying to develop sustainable regeneration and national projects that drive economic development. Yet, Pakistan slips further into being a failed State and one which is far from the open and democratic society that its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah wanted. This great man had a vision that must not die and which can and should be implemented. That vision can come to fruition if we now stand up and make our voices clear that we will not buy the spin of repression and political manipulation. I hope that we can all shout out loud at this time of change in Pakistan so that the nation does not have any more military leaders and clumsy wannabe politicians who make the lives of citizens unequal in a whole range of areas.

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