Congress and President Bush send $150 million a month to Pakistan, now held under martial law declared by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has been tpresident since he took over in a military junta in 1999.
In all, Washington has sent Musharraf about $11 billion, mostly in military hardware, which Musharraf has used to suppress dissent since early November. Pakistan, like its neighbor India, has nuclear weapons.
U.S. aid is supposed to be used in fighting terrorism, al-Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban. Musharraf's forces have failed to restrain any of these forces and instead has turned on his civilian detractors, who have been clamoring for a return to democracy for seven years.
In the course of Musharraf's crackdown, hundreds of political dissidents, lawyers, journalist and others have been jailed, some beaten. Judges are among those who have been rounded up under martial law.
The declaration of martial law reportedly took place only days before Pakistan's Supreme Court was going to declare Musharraf ineligible to continue to serve as president. He fired the chief judge last week as part of his military takeover.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said U.S. aid to Pakistan is "under review." However, Bush praised Musharraf as a strong ally and terrorism fighter and declined to say what the government would do about the money, much of which has been unaccounted for.
American military leaders have warned Musharraf that such repression would prompt the government to reconsider its aid package. The quandary takes place as Democratic leaders are considering changes to the 2008 defense policy bill. At the same time, Rep. Duncan Hunter, Calif., the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a dark horse candidate for president, warned against being "too hasty with rebukes" of Musharraf.
Where does all this place Bush's campaign for Mideast democracy, and why are we sending so much money to what many Pakistanis view as a weakened dictator, whose time in office is growing short?
-- Douglas Turner