Benazir Bhutto is getting tons of press. Our intrepid reporters should note that unlike virtually every other opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, seems to have direct access to all international and state media - including holding gloriously orchestrated press conferences. Still, she has been ratcheting up her rhetoric - declaring now that "I will not serve as prime minister as long as Musharraf is president". Of course, she follows that with the clear-eyed assessment that "even if I wanted to work with him, I would not have the public support." Ah, the machinations of freedom's glorious march across the Muslim world.
I say what I said before, these protests are fulfilling a crucial role: they are making sure that things do not return to status quo, that the vacuum persists and that back-channel deals are forced into the public. In that regards, the role of internet-based distribution of information cannot be stressed highly enough. Benazir may have landed in Pakistan with deals but the democratic forces - those lawyers and college kids - are forcing her to play by new rules. And I say "forcing" because, trust me, she is no Aung San Suu Kyi.
Which isn't to say that there is no other 'viable' leadership in Pakistan (a common refrain from the likes of "realists" like Fareed Zakaria and Zakaria-lites). NYT has a great profile of Aitzaz Ahsan - a stalwart of opposition in many a regimes. He is currently in jail.
Perhaps feeling the inevitable Buyer's Remorse, Pervez Musharraf has been out of sight but he makes a brilliant comeback to the press limelights. First off, he is mad at being called "our sonofabitch" and so he kicks out the Telegraph reporters. Then, the interview, which promises to be just scads of fun with some amazing quotes from the NYT write-up:
About Benazir Bhutto, speaking as a dejected suitor promised a scented garden: “You come here on supposedly on a reconciliatory mode, and right before you land, you’re on a confrontationist mode. I am afraid this is producing negative vibes, negative optics.”
And next speaking as a truly enlightened man of the 21st century:
He called Ms. Jehangir, the leading human rights advocate in Pakistan and one of the first women lawyers, “quite an unbalanced character.”
General Musharraf criticized Ms. Jehangir for being too ambitious in her agenda on how to achieve better rights for women.
Pakistani women deserved more opportunities, and he cited his own legislation that amended the laws to protect women against accusations of rape and adultery.
But Ms. Jehangir, he said, wanted to go too fast, and would therefore fail.
Asma Jahangir is currently under house arrest.
And finally, Stephen Zunes, writing in FPIF Policy report, concludes: Given the unwillingness of both the Republican administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress to stop U.S. military support for the current Pakistani dictatorship, it may be time once again for concerned citizens to engage in similar nonviolent actions to end U.S. support for the oppression. For those at risk as a result of U.S. policy are no longer just those currently oppressed by the Pakistani regime. Some day, as a result of a possible blowback from this policy, it could be Americans as well.