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November 5, 2007
Rumors Flying as Crackdown in Pakistan Continues
Information coming out of Pakistan is getting sketchier as the government clamps down on print and broadcast media. Filling the news void are rumors - including the apparently false story that President Musharraf himself was under house arrest:
Pakistan's government on Monday denied rumours sweeping the country that the deputy army chief had placed military ruler President Pervez Musharraf under house arrest. Meanwhile, the crackdown may one day be remembered as "The War Against the Judiciary" as hundreds of lawyers and judges have been arrested - a result of the percieved hostility of the judiciary toward the declaration of a State of Emergency:
'This is not true. There is no truth in it. He is at Aiwan-e-Sadr (the presidential palace) and has met with foreign diplomats,' a senior government spokesman told Agence France-Presse.
Musharraf imposed a state of emergency on Saturday citing spiraling militancy and a hostile judiciary, in a move that came as the Supreme Court was due to rule on the legality of his October 6 re-election as president.
In Islamabad, police forces continued to block the Parliament and Supreme Court buildings. But the day was mostly quiet, and there was no formal curfew. Several small protests were broken up, including one involving a two dozen people who scuffled with the police before being subdued and taken away. There is a growing consensus among international observers that while the US and other allies of Pakistan have condemned the institution of martial law, most of these same countries are actually relieved that Musharraf is finally trying to deal with the radical Islamists who threatened his hold on power as well as the stability of the country. While Musharraf is taking the opportunity to round up political opponents of his regime, he also now has a freer hand to deal with the terrorist attacks and terrorist activity that has increased substantially in the last few months as a result of his war against the Taliban in the tribal areas.
Police officers armed with tear gas broke up a meeting at the headquarters of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission in Lahore and took dozens of people away in police vans, including elderly women, school teachers and about 20 lawyers, according to people at the meeting. In all, about 80 lawyers were detained, and many others who faced arrest warrants remained in hiding, according to members of a nationwide lawyer’s lobby that has grown increasingly influential as an anti-Musharraf voice.
Asia Times is calling this move "Musharraf Playing his Last Ace." And indeed, this is almost certainly the case. With the military strongly behind him, Musharraf is gambling that he can handle any street protests that occur and that the military can gain control of some of the tribal areas that are currently in almost open rebellion against him.
Those same tribal areas harbor Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters who infiltrate into Afghanistan across the porous border so this will help our mission there if Musharraf succeeds.
It is not an optimum solution and it still might lead to chaos and disaster, but Musharraf's takeover may be Pakistan's only hope of avoiding the fate of Afghanistan in the 1990's when it was taken over by the Taliban.