Stating that by imposition of Emergency, President Pervez Musharraf has endangered the viability of the country as an independent state, former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto has asked the United States, Britain and other western countries to give him the choice "democracy or dictatorship with isolation".
"The United States can promote democracy which is the only way to truly contain extremism and terrorism by telling General Musharraf that it does not accept martial law, and that it expects him to conduct free, fair, impartial and internationally monitored elections within 60 days under a reconstituted election commission," she wrote in an opinion piece published in the New York Times on Wednesday.
By imposing Emergency, Bhutto said, Musharraf has presented the country's democratic forces with a tough decision -- acquiesce to the brutality of the dictatorship or take over the streets and show the world where the people of Pakistan really stand.
The General has also presented the democratic world, especially the countries of the West the challenge as to whether they would back up their democratic rhetoric with concrete action or once again back down in the face of his "bluff," she said.
Bhutto expressed the view that Musharraf imposed Emergency as his ruling party understood that it would be trounced in any free elections and together with its allies within the intelligence services, it contrived to have the constitution suspended and elections indefinitely postponed.
"Very conveniently, the assassination attempt against me last month that resulted in the deaths of at least 140 people is being used as the rationale to stop the democratic process by which my party would most likely have swept parliamentary elections. Maybe this explains why the government refuses to allow the FBI and Scotland Yard to assist in a forensic investigation of the bombings," Bhutto wrote in the Times.
Agreeing that it is dangerous to stand up to a military dictatorship, she said, but it is "more dangerous not to." "The moment has come for the Western democracies to show us in their actions, and not just in their rhetoric, which side they are on," she wrote.
Referring to more than $10 billion in aid that the US has given to the Musharraf government since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, she said, "We do not know exactly where and how this money has been spent but it clear that it has not brought about defeat of Taliban and Al-Qaeda, nor succeeded in capturing Osama bin Laden, nor has it broken the opium trade."
But it certainly has not succeeded in improving the quality of life of the children and families of Pakistan, she told Washington in 650-world article.
The US, Britain and much of the West, she wrote, have always said the right things about democracy in Pakistan and around the world.
"I recall the words of President Bush in his second inaugural address when he said: 'All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you," she said, asking the world to its part to help restore democracy in her country.
While the world must do its part to confront tyranny, she said the primary responsibility rests in the hands of the people of Pakistan.
"It is incumbent on Pakistanis to tell General Musharraf that martial law will not stand," Bhutto noted.
Stressing that the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are moderate, the former premier said, "It is my hope that they will unite in a coalition of moderation to marginalise both the dictators and the extremists, to restore civilian rule to the presidency and to shut down political madrassas, the Islamic schools that stock weapons and preach violence."