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Today's Stories

April 7, 2008

Harry Browne
Irish Peace Activist Acquitted; Deported

April 5 / 6, 2008

Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Want MLK Dead?

Ramzy Baroud
There are No Checkpoints in Heaven

Ralph Nader
Runaway Bailouts

David Yearsley
How Scott Joplin Had Wall Street Down

Saul Landau
Sex Politics in America

Paul Craig Roberts
The Petraeus and Crocker Show

Lawrence Korb / Ian Moss
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a True Patriot

Seth Sandronsky
Meet America's Promise Alliance: Colin Powell's New Gig

John Ross
La Cumbia de la Doctrina Bush: Colombia Kills Four Mexican Students in Ecuador Bombing

Robert Fantina
McCain, Republicans and Family Values

David Michael Green
Back to Disaster: Hoover at Home, Tet Abroad

Missy Beattie

Patrick Bond
Vultures Circle Zimbabwe

Dr. Susan Block
The New American Pot Dealers

Phyllis Pollack
The Stones Meet the Press

Adam Engel
The Boobus in the Lie

Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up

Poets' Basement
Diamand and St. Clair

Website of the Weekend
Richard Pryor Goes to the Gun Shop



April 4, 2008

Dave Lindorff
The Night I Heard King Had Been Shot

Greg Moses
Missing King

Ron Jacobs
Two Murders, 40 Years On: Bobby Hutton and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alan Farago
Show Me the Size of Your Bail Out and I'll Show You Mine

Alison Weir
Funding Our Decline: U.S. Aid to Israel

David Rosen
Rape as an Instrument of Total War

Robert Weissman
The Unrealized Dream

Jacob Hornberger
Was Killing Iraqi Children Worth It?

Jackie Corr
Hillary and Obama Head for Butte

Carl Finamore
Taking On United Airlines

Laray Polk
We Are All Dith Pran

Susie Day
Advice for the War-Torn

Website of the Day
Winter Soldiers: a Video Portrait


April 3, 2008

Peter Morici
The Deepening Recession

Joe Bageant
The Audacity of Depression

Andy Worthington
Cleared But Still Detained: The Ordeal of Moroccan Prisoner Said al-Boujaadia

Nikolas Kozloff
Condi's Divide and Rule Strategy in South America

Rannie Amiri
The U.S. Disdain for Mideast Democracy

David Macaray
More Labor Strife in Hollywood

Stephen Lendman
Lynne Stewart's Long Struggle for Justice

Website of the Day
The True Face of Da Vinci?


April 2, 2008

Diane Farsetta
Indian Point on the Potomac

Harry Browne
Bertie Ahern Laid Low by Secretary

Wajahat Ali
The Folly of Attacking Iran: a Conversation with Steven Kinzer

George Wuerthner
Open Season on Wolves

Col. Dan Smith
The Militarization of America

Philippe Marlière
The Politics of Bling-Bling in France: Sarkozy's Cultivated Anti-Intellectualism

Steve Early
A Purple Uprising in Oakland

Bernard Chazelle
Saving the American Left

Reza Fiyouzat
Bowling in Hell


April 1, 2008

Jeff Leys
Fracturing the Peace to End the War

Thomas P. Healy
Restoring the Constitution: a Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg

Winslow T. Wheeler
When Pigs Sprout Wings: Mangled Rationales for a Fatter Defense Budget

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
New Deal Nostalgia

Patrick Irelan
Cocaine, Colombia and the Cartels

Andy Worthington
The Case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani

John V. Walsh
The Shunning of Ralph Nader

Michael J. Smith
Woolly Mamet

Robert Weissman
The New Philip Morris--Even Worse Than the Old?

Dave Lindorff
Bush's Defining Moments

Martha Rosenberg
Brain Mist Disease: Boss Hog's Gift to Humanity

Website of the Day
Support Briana!


March 31, 2008

Mike Whitney
Dead on Arrival: Paulson's Fixit Plan for Wall Street

Mats Svensson
Walls, Tunnels and Daily Humiliations

Paul Rockwell
Hillary's Lies About Outsourcing

Paul Craig Roberts
A Third American War in the Making?

Patrick Cockburn
Sadr Calls for Ceasefire

Peter Dale Scott
The Showdown

Alfredo Molano
Cultura Mafiosa in Colombia

Peter Morici
Why Paulson's Reform Plan Falls Short

Uri Avnery
Day of the Land, 32 Years Later

Michael Simmons
The American Bard in New Orleans

Betsy Roberts / Karen Orr
The Clorox Coup

Phyllis Pollack
First the Sun and Then the Moon: Scorsese Does the Stones

Website of the Day
Five Years Too Many


March 29 / 30, 2008

Alexander Cockburn
When They Pick Up the Phone at 3 AM, What Will They Say?

Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Police Refuse to Back Maliki's Attacks on Medhi Army

Mike Whitney
Bernanke's Next Big Bail Out Plan

Christopher Brauchli
The Pastor of Armageddon and the Slave Sale: McCain, Lieberman and Rev. Hagee

William Blum
China, Tibet and the Propaganda Olympics

Robert Fantina
Iraq Troika: McCain, Obama and Clinton

John Ross
AMLO, the Comeback Kid? Fighting the Privatization of Mexico's Oil

Allison Kilkenny
Shady Lending Hits Home

Nelson P. Valdés
Cuba, the Beatles and Historical Context

Suzanne Baroud
The Great Lake of Gaza: a New Crisis in the Making

Richard Rhames
Social Security: Throwing Granny from the Gravy Train

Christopher Fons
Transcending the 60s? Obama and the Baby Boomers

Carl Finamore
Misery at 35,000 Feet: Mergers Stall, Fares Soar, Services Slump and Consumers Sour

Eamonn McCann
Hillary Misremembers Again!

Missy Beattie
Justice and the Monsters of War

Fred Gardner
Jim Thorpe, All-American

Kim Nicolini
Cock Chuggers and Cheese Curls: Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales"

David Yearsley
"All the World's a Hospital"

Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up

Poets' Basement
Valentine and Ko Un

Website of the Weekend
Hidden Iraq


March 28, 2008

Saul Landau
Growing Dread About Iraq

Alan Farago
Other People's Money: the Chop Shop Economy

Peter Morici
Knocking Down False Economic Gods

Andy Worthington
Plight of the Uyghus: a Chinese Muslim's Desperate Plea from Guantánamo

Felice Pace
Ashes of Lies: Why No One Trusts the US Forest Service

Peter Montague
Sierra Club Cleans House -- With Clorox!

Dave Lindorff
The Mumia Exception

March 27, 2008

Patrick Cockburn
Basra Erupts

Binoy Kampmark
Free Market Apostates

Joanne Mariner
"Was George Washington a Terrorist?"

Norman Solomon
NPR News: National Pentagon Radio?

William S. Lind
Mars Only Knocks Once: a Prognosis for Iraq

John V. Walsh
Obama's Speech: a Touch of Bigotry?

Robert Weissman
How Things Work

Ron Jacobs
Meeting Charlie Ehlen

Ralph Nader
Put Impeachment Back on the Table

David Macaray
Court Rules Against Grocery Workers

John Borowski
Clearcutting the History of Forest Destruction

Website of the Day
Going Out for an English


March 26, 2008

Stan Cox
The Germs Next Door

Sharon Smith
Greed Pays: Welfare on Wall Street

Anita Sinha / Jill Tauber
Dreams Turned into Rubble in New Orleans

Matt Vidal
So Much for the Self-Regulating Market

William S. Lind
Operation Cassandra

Joe Mowrey
The Audacity of Hypocrisy: Obama's Pandering to Israel

Dave Lindorff
Duck and Cover (Up): Hillary Under Fire

Ray McGovern
Frontline's War: Too Timid, Too Little, Too Late

Justin Smith
Why Race and Gender are Separate Issues

Sam Husseini
The Winter Soldier Hearings and Indy Media

Martha Rosenberg
Blood on Ice: Gentlemen, Pick Up Your Clubs

Michael Dickinson
Politicians as Dogs

Website of the Day
The Wal-Mart Virus: How the Infection Spread


March 25, 2008

Ishmael Reed
The Crazy Rev. Wright

Corey D. B. Walker
The Politics of Jeremiah Wright

Linn Washington Jr.
Racism in America and Other Uncomfortable Facts

Alan Farago
The Money Launderers: a Picnic for Wall St. Insiders

Vijay Prashad
A Glimmer of Hope From the Gulf Coast

Joshua Frank
A Silver Lining to the Bush Years?

Ralph Nader
How Public Servants Can Help End This War

David Rovics
If I Can't Dance: Why is the Left So Boring?

Peter Morici
America's Banks are Broken

Dave Zirin
Olympic Flames: China's Crackdown in Tibet

David Krieger
The Crisis in Tibet

Website of the Day
Memorializing Iraq

March 24, 2008

Jeffrey St. Clair
Blonde Ambition: Hillary's Berserker Campaign for 2012

Peter Morici
Digging Out of the Recession

Uri Avnery
Two Americas

Wajahat Ali
First of the Mohicans: an Interview with Rep. Keith Ellison

Paul Craig Roberts
Inside the Shell Game

George Ciccariello-Maher
The Coming War on Venezuela

Stephen Lendman
Sami Al-Arian's Long Ordeal

Christopher Brauchli
Possessing Someone Else's Country

Cat Woods
A Letter to Mom on Obama

Stacey Warde
Tax Burden

Dave Lindorff
The American Dead Hits 4,000, But Who's Counting?

Website of the Day
Live from the Longest Walk


March 22 / 23, 2008

Ralph Nader
Bush Blisters the Truth on Iraq

Nicole Colson
Can You Afford to Feed Your Family?

James Petras
The Cost of Unilateral Humanitarian Initiatives

Laura Carlsen
From Bombs to Markets: The Andean Crisis and the Geopolitics of Trade

Greg Moses
Tolerance and the American Pulpit

Andy Worthington
Torture Stories Dog Guantánamo Trials

Michael Dickinson
Art on Trial

John Ross
Bush's Surge Hits Mosul

Missy Comley Beattie
Killer Economics

David Michael Green
Happy Anniversary, America!

Ramzy Baroud
The Coming Uncertain War on Iran

Martha Rosenberg
Easter Egg Shells from Hell

Paul Watson
Evolution is Going to the Dogs in the Galapagos

Isabella Kenfield
Monsanto's Raid on Brazil

James Murren
Logging v. Water in Honduras

Jacob Hornberger
Sex and the Immigration Officer

Kathlyn Stone
Ben Heine, Master of the Art of Resistance

Seth Sandronsky
Rethinking New Mexico's History

Kim Nicolini
Class, Gender and Abortion in Communist Romania

Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: What I'm Reading This Week

Poets' Basement
Wilson, Woods, Gibbons and Orloski

Website of the Weekend
Merci, McCain!


March 21, 2008

Marleen Martin
Land Behind Bars: the Hidden Casualties of America's "War on Crime"

Peter Montague
Run Your Car on Coal? Maybe Not

Saul Landau
Monroe's Deadly Doctrine

Anis Hamadeh
Merkel in the Knesset

Jacob Hornberger
McCain's Al Qaeda Scare: Slip or Tactic?

Khalil Nakhleh
Al Nakba of 1948: How Long Will It Persist?

Adam Isacson
Colombia, Paramilitary Threats and Assassinations

Kenneth Couesbouc
Money for Nothing

Madis Senner
Will the Feds Underwrite the Stock Market?

Monica Benderman
The Costs of Freedom: What Are You Willing to Pay?

Website of the Day
Stop Foreclosures and Evictions

March 20, 2008

Damien Millet /
Eric Toussaint
The Triple Failing of the Big Private Banks

Mike Whitney
Winding Up Bear

John Ross
What Do We Owe Iraq?

Dave Lindorff
Paying the Piper: the Bodies and Bills are Piling Up

Wajahat Ali
Pakistan on Fire

Jill Nagle
Memo to Sex Workers: Stop Financing Shock Journalism

Manuel Garcia, Jr.
Obama and the Psychic Auto-Shrink-Wrapping Called Race in America

Dan La Botz
Obama's Race Speech

Robert Weissman
Alternative Power: Shutting Down the API

Stella Dallas /
Jennifer Matsui

Apostasy Now! Mamet, Enter Stage Right

Website of the Day
The Angry Monk


March 19, 2008

Patrick Cockburn
A War of Lies

Robert Fisk
The Little Men and the Inferno

Jeff Taylor
Five Years of War in Iraq

Ed Ruggero
From Pinkville to Iraq: the Dark Anniversary of My Lai

Ron Jacobs
Who'll Stop the Rain?

Christopher Fons
Obama Takes the Race Bait

Sherwood Ross
In Defense of Rev. Wright

Cynthia McKinney
An Urgent Crisis: Confronting America's Racial Disparities

Joshua Frank
The Kool-Aid That Kills

Robert Weissman
Monsanto's Genetic Food Gamble

Walter Brasch
It's a Welfare State--If You're Rich

Yifat Susskind
Iraqi Women Resist the Occupation

Andrew Wimmer
War Demands Its Due

Website of the Day
Glimpses of Nature


March 18, 2008

David Price
The Military "Leveraging" of Cultural Knowledge

Paul Craig Roberts
The Collapse of American Power

Tim Wise
Of National Lies and Racial America: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama and the Unacceptability of Truth

Patrick Cockburn
One of the Most Disastrous Wars Ever Fought

Conn Hallinan
Afghanistan, a River Running Backward

James T. Phillips
Monsters: Past, Present and Wannabe

Uri Avnery
The Killing in Bethlehem

David Macaray
Could Wal-Mart Revive the Labor Movement?

Marjorie Cohn
Beware an Attack on Iran

Peter Zinn
Obama in New Orleans

Dan La Botz
The Economic Crisis, Labor and the Left

Monica Benderman
Where are We Going?


March 17, 2008

Pam Martens
The Fed's Wall Street Dilemma

Sasan Fayazmanesh
The US, Iran and the Policy of Dual Containment

Nelson P. Valdés
The Imperial Branding of Simon Bolivar and the Cuban Revolution

Peter Morici
The Corrosive Consequences of the Trade Deficit

Wajahat Ali
Disrobing the Nine: a Conversation with Jeffrey Toobin on the Supreme Court Since 9/11

Ronnie Cummins
Beyond Progressive Malpractice: Taking Down Big Pharma

Shaun Harkin
Saint Patrick's Day in Fortress America

Ali Khan
No Pardon for Musharraf

Robert Jensen
Beyond Peace

P. Sainath
Oh, What a Lovely Waiver!

Greg Moses
Jeremiah was a Bullhorn

Dr. Susan Block
Advice for Eliot Spitzer

Website of the Day
No Cowboys


March 15 / 16, 2008

Patrick Cockburn
How to Destroy a Country in Five Years

Mike Whitney
Bearly Alive: Investment Giant Rushed to ICU by Panicky Fed Chief

Ralph Nader
Of Laws and Men

Robert Pollin
It's Still the Economy, Stupid

Diane Christian
The Poetics of Perversity: From Boccaccio to Spitzer

Wajahat Ali
Faking the Hood: a Conversation with Ishmael Reed

Tom Wright /
Therese Saliba

Rachel Corrie's Case for Justice

Alan Farago
Back to Florida: Where Bushtime Began

Greg Moses
Raiding the Family Room in Texas

Michael Hudson
A Grand Global Bargain?

Martha Rosenberg
Why Hillary's Favorite Chicken Company is Eying China

John Goekler
Fourth Generation Warfare in a Fifth Generation Conflict

Uzma Aslam Khan
A Letter to Barack Obama: Where's the Change, Barack?

Oren Ben-Dor
The Silencing of Gilad Atzmon

David Underhill
Mammon, Morals and the Mobile Tanker Deal

Fred Gardner
The Education of Eliot Spitzer

David Michael Green
Why Spitzer Should Have Resigned (and Why He Shouldn't Have)

Rev. William E. Alberts
Jesus, Entombed in Heaven

Gail Dines
It's All About the John: Prostitution and Male Power

David Yearsley
Conducting, Anarchy and the Problem of When to Begin

Chris Clarke
Walking with Zeke: the Luckiest of Dogs

Poets' Basement
Anderson, Lodge & Subiet

Website of the Day
Deviant Art


March 14, 2008

Paul Craig Roberts
Watching the Dollar Die

Don Santina
Vichy Democrats: Pelosi and the Politics of Collaboration

Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Mother Vows Revenge on US: How She Lost Her Husband and Her Sons

Tim Rinne
StratCom Rules! The Next War Will Start in Nebraska

Robert Fantina
In Torture We Trust

Saul Landau
Letter to the Presidents-in-Waitings

David Macaray
Common Myths About Labor Unions

Franklin Lamb
Is the Bush Administration Switching Horses in Lebanon

Michael Neumann
The One State Illusion: Reply to My Critics

March 13, 2008

Paul Craig Roberts
Republicans and "Free Market" Zealots Bring Disaster to America

Mike Whitney
Meltdown Looms Larger As Credit Markets Freeze

Assaf Kfoury
"One-State or Two State?"- Sterile Debate on False Alternatives

Andy Worthington
Afghan Hero Who Died in Guantánamo: The Background to the Story

Adam Federman
From Autopia to Autogeddon: Cars Reach the End of the Road

March 12, 2008

Dave Lindorff
Bringing Down Spitzer: It's the Big Brother Who Should Bother US

R.F. Blader
The Spitzer Backlash

Yonatan Mendel
How to be an Israeli Journalist. Never Write "Murder" or "Palestine"

Jonathan Cook
One State or Two? Neither. The Issue is Zionism

Bill and Kathy Christison
Fallon and Gates -- At Least One Cheer

James J. Brittain
Was the U.S. Involved in Killing the FARC-EP Leaders

Ron Jacobs
"All the Money You Make Will Never Buy Back Your Soul"

March 11, 2008

Paul Craig Roberts
How to End the Subprime Crisis

Ed O'Loughlin
How Israeli Troops Invade Homes in Gaza, Brutalize, Smash and Steal

Ramzy Baroud
'Unwavering Commitment' to Inequality

Kathy Christison
One State or Two? The Debate Over Israel and Palestine

China Hand
PRC Plays it Cool, as U.S. Tries to Amp Up Pressure on Iran

John Joslin
Thank You, Nafta! Welcome to Weirton, Home of the Discount Cigarette

Mike Averko
Serb Politics, Kosovo and the Moscow-Washington Divide

Ben Rosenfeld
Gavin Newsom's Kneejerk Plan

Thierry Paquot
High Rise, Low Spirits:The Curse of the Tower Block

March 10, 2008

Uri Avnery
"Kill A Hundred Turks and Rest": The Five-Day War in Gaza

Col. Dan Smith
Scoring the "Surge" and What Lies Beyond

R.F. Blader
Why "Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Key" is Losing its Sheen

Michael Neumann
The One-State Illusion: More is Less

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Did the Republicans Give Hillary Her Victory in Ohio?

James J. Brittain
Anti-Uribe Protests in Colombia and the World

Missy Comley Beattie
The Passion of John McCain

March 8-9, 2008 Weekend Edition

JoAnn Wypijewski
The Only Way to Fight the Clintons

Mike Whitney
Sorting Through the Rubble in Post Bubble America

Peter Morici
Fed and Treasury Fiddle as Economy Plummets

Ralph Nader
The Silent Violence of Gaza's Suffering that Candidates Ignore

Jonathan Cook
The Meaning of Gaza's Shoah

Steve Niva
Behind the Israeli Escalation in Gaza

Bill and Kathy Christison
Crisis over Teheran's Alleged Nuclear Plans Nearing Climax

Hervé Do Alto and Franck Poupeau
Bolivia: Morales is Checked

Eric Walberg
To Leave and Stay at the Same Time: Putin to Medvedev to…?

Scott Johnson
City of A Thousand Foreclosures

Mark Scaramella
James Brown's Gate

Bill Clinton
President Clinton's Remarks on Naming William M. Daley as NAFTA Task Force Chairman

Poet's Basement
St. Thomasino, Engel, Davies and Willson

Website of the Weekend
Hillary Blackens Barack

March 7, 2008

Patrick Cockburn
Why Iraq Could Blow-Up in John McCain's Face

Robin Blackburn
Question for Barrack Obama: Why Afghanistan is the'Right War'?

Saul Landau
The Stupid Economy

Binoy Kampmark
When Competition is Good: McCain and the Muddled Democrats

Chris Floyd
Crushing the Ants: Admiral Fallon and His Empire

Andy Worthington
Spanish Drop "Inhuman" Extradition Request for Guantánamo Britons

Will Potter
Before the Smoke Even Clears in Seattle: Bringing Out the T Word

March 6, 2008


March 6, 2008

Vincent Navarro
The Next Failure of Health Reform

Forrest Hylton
High Stakes in the Andes: Colombia's Cornered President

Peter Morici
Why the Dollar is So Cheap

George Ciccariello-Maher
Counter-Attack of the Bureaucrats

John Ross
Taxi! Taxi! The Dark Side of the Oscars

Jacob Hornberger
No Standing to Lecture on Justice

Paul Watson
Illegal Japanese Whaling by the Numbers

Dan Bacher
Off the Deep End

Website of the Day
A Katrina Reader Online


March 5, 2008

Cockburn / St. Clair
A Great Day for John McCain (and Maybe Nader)

Joanne Mariner
After Guantanamo

Fidel Castro
The Raid on Ecuador: Underestimating Rafael Correa

Christopher Brauchli
The Turkish Invasions

Steven Sherman
Obama and the Prospects for a Renewal of the Left

Dave Lindorff
Busting Bush & Co. in New England

James Murren
Bombing Somalia

Adam Engel
Necropolis Now

Website of Day
Remember Song


March 4, 2008

Wajahat Ali
Mumbo Jumbo: Naming Names with Ishmael Reed

William Blum
How Could Hillary Have Known?

Bill Quigley
The Cleansing of New Orleans

Ralph Nader
The Prince Harry Solution

Patrick Irelan
Oil and Health in Venezuela

James J. Brittain /
R. James Sacouman

Uribe's Colombia is Destabilizing a New Latin America

Norman Solomon
The War Election

Jacob Hornberger
Hillary in Waco: the Missing Apology

Andy Worthington
Guantánamo and the European Parliament

Mike Averko
Kosovo and the Press

Website of the Day
Tex-Mex Primary


March 3, 2008

Jennifer Loewenstein
Gazan Holocaust

Alan Farago
American Politics and the Faltering Economy

Richard Gott
Colombian Deaths in Ecuador

Wajahat Ali
Who Speaks for a Billion Muslims? Analyzing the World Gallup Poll with John Esposito

Paul Craig Roberts
The Mukasey Conspiracy: a Bi-Partisan Attack on the Constitution

Robert Weissman
When Multinationals Say Adieu

Uri Avnery
Good Morning, Hamas

Martha Rosenberg
When Your Meat is a Downer

Eva Liddell
Leave the Next Dance for Bill

Michael Donnelly
Will Ferrell Does Flint

Website of the Day
Muddy Waters: Train Fare Home Blues




Subscribe Online

Apri1 7, 2008

A Hopeful Time

America Must Respect Pakistan's Democracy


A few years ago, a friend presented me with Fareed Zakaria's book, "The Future of Freedom," in which he argues that "liberal authoritarian regimes" augur better for developing societies. By drawing a distinction between constitutional liberty (in which he includes some protection of rights of speech, property and religion) and democracy (which he defines as "open, free and fair elections"), Zakaria continues to make his case against the latter. He cautions that western powers should not push for democracy in Middle Eastern countries as fundamentalists would take over and that democracy cannot function well without education and economic development.

I found Zakaria's reasoning faulty and vain and his entire concept of essentially waiting for a benevolent dictator highly unrealistic. I was surprised also that Indian-born Zakaria would author such an undemocratic work. So much for the New York Times' bestseller list!

More recently, Henry Kissinger in his piece, "Two Paths in Pakistan: Security and Democracy" (Washington Post, March 10, 2008), lobbies for national security (America's) as a priority to democratic evolution (in the Muslim world). Apart from Kissinger's ignorance on several key aspects of Pakistan's internal affairs and raison d'etre, his efforts to spread fear in the minds of western readers and to posit democracy as an aim entirely different from ensuring security is censurable.

The result of the 2008 Pakistani election flies in the face of both Zakaria and Kissinger's rationale. The over-exaggerated threat that if democracy were to flourish in Pakistan, the influence of Islamic radicals would strengthen has been proven conclusively false. In fact, in Pakistan's history, the only time the Islamic parties gained any significant votes was in the rigged election of 2002, when Musharraf ensured their victory in large numbers by taking measures to facilitate their candidatures. The religious alliance, for their part, ensured Musharraf of their tacit support in passing constitutional amendments to greatly strengthen Musharraf's powers as President. Simultaneously, the victory of the religious party also sent a convenient signal to the outside world that Musharraf is the west's best bet against the growing tide of extremism.

Musharraf and his cronies had been so successful in convincing the world of this convoluted image of Pakistan that even some Pakistani expatriates were fearful of the results the election may yield. But, the poverty-stricken, semi-literate citizens of Pakistan spoke with grace and sophistication on February 18, 2008. They voted against the incumbents and for change. They voted against the religious parties and for secular ones. A referendum against Musharraf, some say. Or, perhaps, could it be a referendum for an independent judiciary?

Important as education is, the people of Pakistan have shown it is not a precursor to a functioning democracy. What in fact may have been crucial is access to information. An educated person who is denied objective media reports is as likely to squander his vote as an uneducated person who is not given all the facts.

Therefore, the February 2008 election and its aftermath are notable at several different levels. Politics had always been a topic of great interest for Pakistanis but in recent years the obsession to discuss politics was taken to the television screen. In spite of threats and restrictions, talk shows stretched the limits and discussed controversial subjects that led Pakistanis, as a group, to conclude that military rule is not the way to progress. In 2007, the highly publicized issue of the deposed Chief Justice grabbed headlines and became the catalyst for several new organized civil society groups, the most eminent of course is the lawyers' movement itself, which demonstrated the importance of supremacy of the rule of law and Constitution so irrefutably that even simple village folk are awaiting the restoration of an independent judiciary.

It was curious in fact that while western press often reported on renowned politicians in covering the 2008 election focusing primarily on which personality could best cooperate with NATO forces, in Pakistan, voters were far more concerned with party ideology. The PML (N), for instance, led by Nawaz Sharif, secured far more votes than expected in spite of the fact that both Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, were not allowed to contest elections. It is widely commented that the reason for their success was their clear stand on the issue of restoration of the deposed judiciary.

In the North West Frontier Province, the religious parties had ruled for five years, much to the chagrin of average people, who had become the targets of increased violence by radical elements and suffered economic depravation as a result of backward policies. So, not only were the religious parties defeated definitively, but the ANP was voted into power, which has historically held amongst the most secular of views. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the religious alliance, contested from two seats and lost one, barely winning the other. All four of his brothers lost in the elections.

In fact, the collective will of the Pakistani people has been completely contrary to Musharraf's assertions that Islamic radicals may be voted into power, or short of that only those with a feudal background or large amounts of money may win. Of course there are politicians with feudal backgrounds and large amounts of money who have been elected. But it is nevertheless interesting to note that several political bigwigs lost this time around and amongst them, many who spent countless rupees on their election.

For instance, both Pervez Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat (Musharraf's right-hand men) suffered defeats. Moonis Elahi, Pervez Elahi's son, supposedly gave out a bicycle (his election symbol) to every potential voter in an effort to lure them to vote for him. Several voters rode off on the bicycles but voted for his opponent. Humayun Akhtar Khan, also one of Musharraf's men, allegedly handed out Rupees 2,000 (about $35) to every potential voter. He too lost-to PML (N) candidate Saad Rafique, who had not contested from that constituency previously, and is nowhere near as wealthy as Mr. Khan. Mr. Rafique has now been appointed Minister for Youth Affairs in the new cabinet.

Ejaz-ul-Haq, previous dictator Zia-ul-Haq's son, lost; as did Omar Ayub Khan, former dictator, Ayub Khan's grandson. Those with army connections were not the only ones to go. Owais Ahmed Leghari, former President Farooq Leghari's son and a feudal by heritage, also lost. Interestingly, Abdul Qadir Gilani, the son of newly-elected Prime Minister, Yusaf Reza Gilani, lost as well. And thus, the contention that votes are cast simply on tribal or feudal affiliations is simply not correct.

Yet, apart from the euphoria caused by the new victories and losses, the most promising aspect of the current political climate in Pakistan is how mindful the newly elected government is of public opinion. None of the ministers named to the cabinet thus far have been the beneficiaries of the highly controversial and hotly debated National Reconciliation Ordinance, as a result of which Musharraf had pardoned several allegedly corrupt politicians prior to the elections, expecting that they, in return, would have to support him as President. In his first address to the nation, moreover, Prime Minister Gilani freed all deposed judges and stressed that they would be restored to their rightful positions within one month.

It is a hopeful time in Pakistan because people are relishing a new era of participatory governance. The lawyers' movement, in the guise of a public interest pressure group, is keeping a close watch on the freshly inducted government, giving them thirty days in which to reinstate the judges Musharraf had deposed prior to the emergency he declared last November. The newly elected government has to deliver on that promise or risk break-up of the fragile coalition that has temporarily placed political differences on hold and come together to fight dictatorship.

For the first time in Pakistan, civil society groups find themselves in a position to dictate terms to an elected government. For the first time, political parties have allowed leaders to emerge who are not related to the founding members of the respective parties. Assistant Secretary of State, John Negroponte's recent visit with Musharraf and the politicians led to resentment within the country, with many pointing out his efforts to sabotage democracy in Honduras previously. Pakistan is learning to assert the strength of its 160 million plus population. America will have to live with and respect its new found sovereignty and commitment to democracy.

Ayesha Ijaz Khan is a London-based lawyer and writer and can be contacted via her website www.ayeshaijazkhan.com





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