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November 9, 2007

A Bill Moyers essay on Pakistan


You've been seeing these pictures all week, But let's take a second look and consider what an extraordinary thing is happening in Pakistan.

Those are lawyers you see out there in the streets, confronting the army and the police, taking those blows, tear-gassed, shoved into vans like cattle and hauled off to who knows what fate.

Lawyers, some of them educated at places like Harvard and Cambridge, risking their liberty and lives to protest a dictator's suspension of the constitution. And not just lawyers, but judges, civil rights advocates, students, demanding free and fair elections.

WOMAN: We are living in a free country we fought for our independence, our forefathers fought for our independence. It's an inalienable human right.

MALE STUDENT 1: the country is in great turmoil. It's in Chaos. Total instability everywhere.

MALE STUDENT 2: When one man is at the top and he says this is right and that is it. Well I really shudder to think what can happen next. And what will happen next in this country.

BILL MOYERS: General Pervez Musharraf is the Muslim world's most powerful military dictator. He has nuclear weapons but can't use them against his own cities. So last Saturday he did the next best thing and shut down all the independent news channels. To keep word of the protests from spreading to the grass roots only government TV was allowed to air.

But Musharraf didn't reckon on the internet...cable broadcasters shut down on Saturday are going on line to spread news of the revolt.

It's now a contest between guns and power versus people and truth.

NEWS: Martial law has been slapped on the country.

BILL MOYERS: President Bush Calls General Musharraf an ally in the war on terror and since 9/11 has sent him almost $10 billion dollars, mostly for the military now cracking down on its own citizens. But the fight against terrorism has gone badly in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden is still at large — most likely in the vast region to the north which has become a safe haven for al Quaeda. If Musharraf did capture bin Laden and turn him over to the US, he would likely ignite another insurrection this time by Islamic militants who loathe America.

Musharraf and Saddam Hussein — our friend only 20 years ago &151; were cut from the same cloth. So once again America's support of a dictator has backfired. Musharraf says elections will be held by February and he'll quit the Army.

But on Friday he stopped a rally of thousands of Pakistanis by putting opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under temporary house arrest.

BHUTTO: And we will come forth again. And we will come forth again until our demands are met, which is for a democratic Pakistan. We are trying to save Pakistan.

BILL MOYERS: So we face a quandary: back a dictator against his own people in the name of a failed strategy to fight terrorists or back the people and risk democracy.

MALE STUDENT: it's not Musharraf whose going to save this country from any extremist terror. It's the people who can save the country. It's democracy.

BILL MOYERS: The U.S. invaded Iraq saying democracy was just around the corner. But more than four years of war have produced only chaos, not democracy.

Perhaps the real birthpangs of democracy are here — among these lawyers, judges, and students — risking everything for their constitution.

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