Pakistan Crisis: Blogosphere Round-up

by Peggy McGuinness

Pakistan watcher Paula Newberg’s early assessment is at Huffpo. Her scorecard: Musharraf 5; rule of law, 0. (Can we expect global reaction to this martial law to be a bit different from the old martial laws in light of YouTube and real-time blogging? Or does the nuclear option cancel out the outrage?)

Scott Horton’s take at his Harper’s Blog is here. Money quote:

The enemy he identified consisted of the judges, the courts and the legal profession. He claimed they were taking the country down. Musharraf’s moves had been very carefully crafted to echo Bush’s own rhetoric: his denigration of lawyers, courts and judges, and his steady erosion of constitutional rights in order to bolster his own war-making powers. If Bush can play this game, Musharraf thought, why can’t I? But apart from his religious salutations, Musharraf’s speech could almost have been given by Dick Cheney at his next visit to a Whites-only country club. Musharraf’s main speech even evoked Abraham Lincoln in language which could have been taken straight from the pages of the Weekly Standard. They hit their target.

Horton is spot on to recommend Barnett Rubin’s live-blogging from Islamabad, which can be found here.

In the meantime, what does the crisis say about the competence of the Bush-Rice foreign policy? Horton provides a one-word answer: “Ignorant. As in: fundamentally uninformed.” The second inaugural’s embrace of democracy as the best response to Islamic terrorism is a dead letter – though some neocons appear to be arguing over the details. But the realists aren’t happy either, decrying the mixed signals and half-hearted and/or belated efforts at brokering solutions to the simmering political crisis on the ground during the past year. Fred Kaplan has the full bill of particulars here.

The current crisis also offers lessons for what looks increasingly like the privatization of international diplomacy: Paid Washington lobbyists (former political appointees and career diplomats) shilling for the Musharraf regime (and for those who would replace him) on Capitol Hill. It’s been going on for decades, but it is remarkable how easy it has become for an anti-democratic regime to find advocates (at the right price) among those who used to sit across the negotiating table urging the regime to be, well, a little less anti-democratic. Politico has the full story here, and the connection between Bhutto (does anyone call her BB anymore?) and the Clinton presidential campaign here.

What is happening in Pakistan matters for U.S. security, for the development of the rule of law, and for survival of some form of secular democracy in a crucial part of the world. It also matters profoundly for the people of Pakistan who have only the most cursory experience of democratic governance in the 60-year history of their state. (See this excellent post by Hilzoy describing Pakistani political preferences. Hint: they are not leaning toward the mullahs.) The most troubling aspect of the coverage over the past three days is that, six years after 9/11, and after $10 Billion in bilateral assistance, the mainstream media (and thus the U.S. public) still knows very little about Pakistan. One particularly egregious example: this discussion of the Muttahida Quami Movement (“MQM”) movement. (Even if the “Muttonhead Quail Movement” typo didn’t happen, it certainly feelstrue.) Among the experts who should know something about Pakistan, Foreign Policy reports no consensus on U.S. policy options. And when Dan Drezner posted an open thread on the current crisis this weekend he had a grand total of 2 comments.

6 Responses

  1. “Horton provides a one-word answer: ‘Ignorant. As in: fundamentally uniformed’.” This is either a typo or a sublime critique of the Bush-Rice foreign (militaristic) policy. U.S. foreign policy and security concerns aside, the startling television images of Pakistani lawyers and jurists being openly attacked and jailed by the Pakistani military should give all Western lawyers some pause; if not a clarion call to lend support our beleaguered colleagues.

    The Canadian Bar Association’s press release “CBA Condemns Arrests of Lawyers in Pakistan and Calls for Return to Rule of Law” is available here

    The “Statement of Core Principles of the Legal Profession” Canadian Bar Association Resolution 06-09A dated August 12-13, 2006 (also adopted by the ABA House of Delegates on February 13, 2006] reads in part:

    “The legal profession throughout the world, in the public interest, is committed to these core principles; 1) An impartial and independent judiciary, without which there is no rule of law; 2) An independent legal profession, without which there is no rule of law or freedom for the people; 3) Access to justice for all people throughout the world, which is only possible with an independent legal profession and an impartial and independent judiciary. And that, these core principles shall not yield to any emergency of the moment.”

  2. Antonin:

    It was a typo on my part, which I have now corrected. But one of those unintentionally insightful typos, I suppose. (Unlike the MQM typo, which was just plain loopy!)

    Thanks for the information on the Canadian Bar resolution.

  3. Peggy:

    Excellent blog analysis on a timely issue of relevance to all lawyers.

  4. It is noted that the Society of American Law Teachers and the American Bar Association have made strong expressions of concern about the treatment of the lawyers and the rule of law. If someone would like to do an ASIL Insight on the Pakistan situation, please contact the editor of the American Society of International Law insight through www.



  5. Opinio Juris blog readers may be interested in a recent report by Matthew Pennington of the Associated Press entitled “Lawyers: Pakistan Political Conscience” (November 8, 2007):

    [My apologies if the link doesn’t appear in my comment; the linking feature doesn’t appear to work even though I am logged in as a registered subscriber]

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