As Gen Musharraf Declares State of Emergency and Suspends Constitution
3 Nov 2007
The state of emergency imposed on Pakistan on Saturday November 3rd effectively restricted civil and political liberties. The country’s chief justice was sacked and replaced and many private television and radio stations were put off the air. Some political opponents were reportedly placed under house arrest. Gen Musharraf took this action at a time that the country’s supreme court was reviewing the validity of his election as president. Critics charge that he acted to forestall an imminent court ruling against him.
The Month of October 2007 was seen as the last turn in a winding road towards the return to full democracy in Pakistan. At least one of the two exiled former Prime Ministers (Benazir Bhutto) returned to the country. Political analysts confirmed she had worked a sort of power sharing arrangement with General Musharraf. Suicide bombers targeted her convoy on the very day she arrived and killed more than 130 people. Even though Bhutto escaped unhurt, she witnessed first hand the type of bloody carnage that has been visiting Pakistanis of recent. More suicide bombings against the military and police units were to follow including one near Musharraf’s office. The Western tribal areas bordering Afghanistan became more rebellious and restive and general insecurity was setting in.
Faced with these problems and coupled with other political calculations, Gen Musharraf apparently decided that it was in his country’s interest and the interest of his own political survival to impose a state of emergency.
Claiming that “extremists are acting all over the country”, Musharaf lamented the fact that everything that he has done to move Pakistan forward during the past years seems to be falling apart. “Pakistan is on the verge of destabilization” Said Musharraf. Adding; “The saddest part of everything which saddens me the most-- that after all we have achieved in the past seven years, I see in front of my eyes Pakistan’s upsurge taking a downward trend”. He claimed that he took the action to protect the democratic transition process that he had initiated.
Nawaz Sharif, one of the exiled former Prime Ministers (that Musharraf toppled in 1999) condemned the state of emergency vowing; “we’ve got to put an end to all this”. Benazir Bhutto (who hurriedly returned to Pakistan from Dubai where she was visiting her family) denounced Musharraf’s action as a “desperate bid by the regime”.
Britain and the US also expressed displeasure at the latest move by their key ally in the in the region. “Pakistan’s future depends on ensuring the rule of law”. Said a statement attributed to Britain. “Anything that takes Pakistan off the democratic path is a step backward and highly regrettable”—America’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
As events take a new twist, it is not very obvious that any political actor has a clear solution to the changing situation in Pakistan. There are discernable cracks in the military. The main opposition parties are divided. Muslim extremists are gaining influence and most of them scorn the concept of democracy as defined by the West. Rising violence and rebelliousness is challenging the very authority of state institutions. With the emerging scenario, it is only anyone’s guess whether the state of emergency will help Pakistan stay united or it will only exacerbate her descend into further anarchy.
Njei Moses Timah