Hello Pakistan – you are the weakest link. With the state of emergency declared by General Pervez Musharraf putting the place back on the front-pages, you might think you’d be forgiven for not paying attention (on “my chaotic middle-eastern countries roster is full” grounds).

You’d be absolutely wrong, but you’d be in good company. Pakistan has been shoved in the too-hard basket for years now, simply because it was a bit too real to fit into the “war on terror” framework. It has nukes; the man who gave it nukes – AQ Khan – was selling them to the highest bidder for year, and any fair electoral process is bound to put Islamic fundamentalists into power sooner or later.

Awareness of this has led the Coalition of the Silly to back Musharref since he took power in a 1999 coup, backed up by a dodgy 2002 referendum. His means of keeping power has been to give Islamic fundamentalist forces a lot of social leeway, and turn a blind eye to the use of Pakistan’s border regions as a base for Afghani operations.

Musharref buttressed his power with a 2007 parliamentary vote confirming him as President, the legitimacy of which was subject to a challenge in the Supreme Court. Word out last week was that the Court would dump him unanimously. You could tell this was going to happen by reading Greg Sheridan in The Australian a month ago:

…it is likely the Pakistan courts will validate Musharraf’s election and he will nominally give up his post as military commander to his trusted offsider and former intelligence boss, Ashfaq Kiani.

The likely court nullification has created the “coup within a coup”, yet the cost for all parties is enormous.

Separation of powers is at the heart of the liberal democracy – because Musharraf has been so keen to abuse it, it has become a rallying point for diverse opposition forces. So the West, to support Musharraf, must stand against their own heritage, and also acquiesce to the rounding up of “enemies of the state”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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