Attorney Protests, Arrests Benazir Pledges Rally Urdu Press on Musharraf’s State of Emergency

The Financial Times reports that Pakistan’s cabinet has decided to hold elections in January after all, backing off statements made over the weekend that they might be postponed for a year. The FT suggests that the vehemence of the response from demonstrating lawyers and other elements of civil society has been stronger than Gen. Musharraf had expected.

As the Musharraf dictatorship arrested 200 members of the Pakistan People’s Party on Monday, their leader, Benazir Bhutto said she would lead a mass demonstration on Friday. Musharraf also imprisoned
400 members of the Muslim League (N) loyal to exiled leader Nawaz Sharif, and 2000 members of the fundamentalist Jama’at-i Islami.
attorneys demonstrated all over Pakistan on Monday and where arrested in the hundreds. They included the country’s most distinguished legal minds and pillars of the establishment. The police responded with tear gas, baton charges, and mass arrests. Dozens of attorneys were wounded. It surely is their finest moment, and I cannot for the life of me understand why they aren’t getting more support from civil society in the US. The lawyers cast rose petals before the chambers of the judges who refused to take Musharraf’s new oath under Emergency laws.

As I predicted yesterday, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, leader of the fundamentalist Jama’at-i Islami, was arrested on Monday after he branded Musharraf a “traitor” for violating the Pakistani constitution. Other JI leaders were also arrested.

It seems pretty obvious that Musharraf is not in control of the situation and is probably hemmed in. If he arrests Benazir, who has many friends on Capitol Hill in Washington, he really could face the cut-off of substantial amounts of US aid. Benazir for her part has to lead a demonstration on Friday if she is not to be upstaged by the fundamentalist leadership of Qazi Hussain Ahmad.

Not only are the attorneys revolting(no smirks, please), but the newspaper editorialists are being pretty defiant, as well. See below.

The USG Open Source Center rounds up editorials in the Urdu press on Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s ‘Emergency’ decree. These editorials seem stronger than what is in English. For instance, one calls the dismissal of the Supreme Court “unconstitutional.” (True, but it takes courage to say it.)

‘Pakistan: Urdu Press Roundup on Imposition of State of Emergency
The following is a roundup of excerpts from editorials and an article on imposition of state of emergency in the country published in 5 November 2007 editions of six Urdu dailies:
Pakistan — OSC Summary
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Khabrain Editorial Urges Government To Restore Fundamental Rights

Maintaining that suspension of fundamental rights and restrictions on media will lead to increased uncertainty which might undermine the government’s efforts to achieve the desired results, the editorial says: “If this 11th state of emergency imposed in Pakistan helps to reduce the sufferings of the people, the government’s measure can yield positive results as it was in the case of Abraham Lincoln. The second thing is that the government should reduce the period of this emergency to the minimum and restore the fundamental rights of the people at the earliest because President General Pervez Musharraf has himself said that this measure was imperative for taking the country into the third phase of democracy.”

Islam Editorial Rejects Reasons Given by Musharraf for Declaring State of Emergency

Rejecting the reasons given by Musharraf for imposition of emergency, the editorial remarks: “According to some analysts, while giving reasons to support imposition of emergency, Gen Musharraf has acknowledged the failure of his eight-year rule. He has clearly stated that the country is facing political, constitutional, and economic crises. This confession in itself is a source of disappointment for the people and they are not ready to believe that steps to be taken by Musharraf will put the country on the path of political stability and economic progress. There is need for all political, religious, and social circles to come together to consider ways to steer the country out of a certain trouble. People will get rid of anxiety and dejection caused by the prevailing situation if they are provided with a clear national strategy.”

Jang Editorial Says Restrictions on Media Not Justified

Finding the country on a crossroad due to the imposition of emergency, the editorial says: “We hope that the emergency and promulgation of provisional constitutional order (PCO) will be confined to limited objectives for which these extraordinary measures have been taken and will not lead to politics of vendetta. The government will not undo its performance regarding the freedom of expression. People will like the government to focus on taking measures to tackle terrorism by taking security measures and holding dialogue. The government should set up some institution to eliminate the trend of extremism through mutual consultations. Opposition parties, lawyers’ community, trade organizations, and religious scholars should be consulted to run the affairs of the state. Consultations should also be held with media and TV news channels. Imposition of restrictions on these media groups and news channels cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

Nawa-e Waqt Editorial Says Musharraf’s Attempts To Prolong Rule Not Likely To Succeed

Discussing the reaction being expressed at national and international levels against the imposition of emergency, the editorial says: “It will be better if this course of action and measures taken are revised. Uniform should be doffed to pave the way for holding of general elections in the country as the United States has suggested. This will help steer the country out of crisis and put it on the path of progress and stability. If the president fails to do so, his opponents will continue to reproach that the commando president made an attempt to deprive the country of constitution, democracy, independent judiciary, and free press to prolong his arbitrary rule and safeguard his pro-US policies. This attempt may not succeed.”

Pakistan Editorial Opposes Imposition of State of Emergency

Discussing the situation that led to the extra- constitutional measure and possible reaction against this move, the editorial says: “It will persistently be asked that when the situation in the country has been heading in the same direction for the past few years, why was imposition of emergency deemed appropriate all of a sudden? At the international level, the United States, Britain, Sweden, European Union, and other western countries have not supported this measure taken by Musharraf. The approach, however, of these countries will become clear in coming days.”

Nawa-e Waqt Article by Irfan Siddiqui Terms Steps Against Judiciary ‘Unconstitutional’

Asserting that unconstitutional measures has been taken by the Army Chief against the judiciary, the article comments: “Some naive people are surprised that why the Chief of Army Staff issued the emergency order and the PCO in the presence of a powerful president and competent prime minister. The logic is that the president and the prime minister have to observe constitutional limits. They can do what the constitution says while the Army Chief enjoys impunity from all such limits. The second reason is that the Constitution is silent on taking action against the judiciary.” Jasarat Editorial Blames Government for Creating Atmosphere of Confrontation

Criticizing the government for creating such an atmosphere in the country that will intensify internal confrontation, the editorial states: “Some big incidents have taken place in India as well but its democratic and political image serves as smoke screen. We, however, have established such a national image that we feel ashamed while responding to certain questions of the international community regarding our political turmoil. This is a damage to nation in every respect and there are apprehensions that the situation evolving in the country might worsen the damage.” ‘

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