Extremists Expand in Swat Bhutto, Iftikhar Call for Rallies Media Defiant

While the Pakistani military is bothering innocent human rights activists and attorneys who want to defend the country’s constitution, it is ignoring Muslim radicals’ advances in the north of the country, according to Zee News:

Pro-Taliban militants have strengthened their hold on the Swat valley in northwestern Pakistan by seizing several key towns after outnumbered security forces laid down their arms and fled their posts.

Militants are now controlling key towns like Matta, Khwazakhela, Madyan and Charbagh, all located near Imamdheri, the stronghold of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

Hundreds of militants have taken over the police stations in these towns, have established their own check posts and are patrolling the streets. In Matta, militants replaced the Pakistani flag with their own at the police station after over 120 security personnel surrendered earlier this week, daily The News reported. . .

Fazlullah, known as “mullah radio” for his calls for jehad broadcast from an illegal FM station, is moving around Swat like “a ruler with full protocol”, the paper said.

He has appointed “governors” in Kabal, Matta and Khwazakhela and ordered the setting up of Islamic courts in areas under his control.

The chief justice of Pakistan’s supreme court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, deposed by the military coup and under house arrest, called on lawyers throughout Pakistan to protest: He said, “I request the community of lawyers to go to every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice. Don’t be afraid.”

The Pakistani military continued on Tuesday to launch assaults on peaceful protesters, many of them lawyers, and to make mass arrests with some brutality. In Multan, an important city of the southern Punjab, the police charged an attorneys’ rally.

Pakistan People’s Party leader Benzir Bhutto, who returned from a long exile on October 18, has flown to the capital of Islamabad to consult with other opposition politicians. She says that PPP members of parliament will not attend the session called for Wednesday by Gen. Musharraf, and that a meeting on Friday at Rawalpindi near the capital will be transformed into a mass rally. She says she is no longer speaking to Musharraf, since he reneged on a pledge to move toward elections and democracy.

A sense that the Pakistani military is closing down civil society pervades the fearful cities of the country, such as Lahore.

Still defiant broadcasters are having to put their signal out by satellite or over the internet, since cable companies have been ordered only to carry the government channel. Military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf is crafting a new censorship law aimed at permanent control over the media.

For the big picture, as consult Tom Engelhardt, “Who lost Pakistan?”. Tom also runs the invaluable Tomdispatch.com, where William Astore is considering the ‘stab in the back’ campaign about to be unleashed by the US Right.

The USG Open Source Center reports on a video running on Geo Television calling on Pakistanis to defend their constitutional rights:

OSC Summary: Geo News TV Posts Video Urging People To Defend Their Rights
Pakistan — OSC Summary
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

FYI — Geo News TV Posts Video Urging Pakistani People To Defend Their Rights

OSC observed on 6 November that private television station Geo News TV posted a video to its website urging the Pakistani people to stand up for their rights. The TV station is also running this video as an advertisement on its television broadcasts.

The video begins by showing clips of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, and then lists several basic human rights given to the people through the constitution, including freedom of speech and the right to assemble.

The video then shows an out-of-balance scale, and the narrator states that these rights are being removed under the current state of emergency in Pakistan. It proceeds to illustrate the government restrictions under the state of emergency, addressing the viewers and informing them that the Pakistan Government can: Video snapshot of an unbalanced scale

Place restrictions on your freedom of expression
Place restrictions on where you live
Send you to jail for assembling
Ban unions and associations
Close your business for no reason
Confiscate your property

The video points out that these rights were not given to the Pakistani people as charity, but that their ancestors fought to procure these rights. It concludes with the following statement: “Recognize your rights; protect those rights, Geo…with principles.” Video snapshot illustrating the right to assemble. ‘

[A reminder that my essay, "Combating Muslim Extremism," is now online at The Nation. It is a critique of the approach of most of the Republican presidential candidates and contains advice for the Democrats on how to escape the racism and fuzzy thinking that dominate this debate.]