It is difficult to comment on the situation in Pakistan as it is very complicated and taking new turns with with each passing day. A majority of the politicians and journalists have condemned the declaration of emergency, but still they are unable to present a solution to the crisis. There will be no denying the fact that Pakistan has been passing through a difficult time of its history.
According to a newspaper comment, we are back to square one, back to Oct 12, 1999. All the gains over the years have gone down the drain. All this talk about the forward thrust towards democracy, about the impending 'third phase' of the political process and the lip service to the sanctity of the judiciary turned out to be one great deception. The people have been cheated.
In a nutshell, one-man rule has been reinforced, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel - a tunnel that is dark and winding with an end that is perhaps blocked. The reports about emergency rule were denied umpteen times by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The denials were bogus.
From now on it would simply be a waste of newspaper space and channel time if ever a denial by this government is printed or aired.
In a sense this is Gen Pervez Musharraf's second coup. Just as Zia ul Haq assumed all powers for himself twice - first in 1977 in what was a classical coup d'etat and in 1988 by using powers under article 58-2b of the Constitution -Musharraf has followed suit with some difference. In his second coup, Zia sent Junejo packing; in this second Musharraf coup, the Constitution has been held in abeyance and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and his ministers will continue to function. But his rule is now absolute, and civil society and democracy have received a blow.
The general had not addressed the nation till the writing of these lines. All private channels have gone off air, and only the state-controlled PTV released the proclamation of emergency order which spoke of the 'visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists' as the reason for imposing the emergency. Frankly, not even the most naive amongst us would buy this line.
In what way does the proclamation of emergency help in prosecuting the war on terror?
Already, the president enjoys all the powers that a ruler could possibly hope to amass. He is Chief of the Army Staff, he is president and he is supreme commander of the armed forces. What more power does he want? After all, for crushing the militants he will use those very military and paramilitary forces which are already doing the job -the Frontier Constabulary, the Frontier Corps, the army, the Rangers, and the plethora of intelligence agencies about whose incompetence now no one has any doubts. We state emphatically what has forced Gen Musharraf to declare emergency are the doubts about the outcome of the Supreme Court's judgment on his right to contest the presidential election.
No one is going to accept what he is going to tell us, neither the people of Pakistan nor the aid-givers. Despite public declarations to the contrary, the voices demanding him 'to do more' may be the only ones not unhappy with these developments as they would expect him to deliver more effectively.
But we ask: can a general who does not enjoy the people's mandate really carry the nation along and fight the terrorists alone?
Another leading newspaper, in its editorial comment, stated that what was being speculated for the last few days proved right. General Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Saturday and issued a provisional constitutional order under which the members of the superior judiciary can be asked to take a fresh oath. The constitution stands suspended. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was deposed from his office minutes after he declared the emergency illegal. It was also endorsed by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court which set aside the proclamation. Security was meanwhile put on further high alert all over the country including Islamabad and more contingents of law enforcement and security agencies were called into the federal capital.
It is obvious that the General had enough of what can be considered as a meddlesome Supreme Court. The decision came at a time when he was awaiting a Supreme Court verdict on the petitions challenging his candidature for presidency. The move however did not come as a surprise , especially after Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz declined to discard outright the speculations regarding extra-constitutional measures being discussed by the ruling coalition ahead of the SC verdict.
Earlier reports indicated that the treasury parliamentarians were urgently summoned to Islamabad where the federal cabinet met on Saturday to approve the proclamation. The meeting was chaired by the President. The emergency is likely to put the power-sharing deal between General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto in jeopardy. She returned home from Dubai Saturday evening. As reaction from mainstream opposition parties has not yet come the Supreme Court Bar Association in its emergency meeting decided to defy the extra-judicial and extra-constitutional measures taken by the government. SCBA President Mr Aitzaz Ahsan has been detained. Legal experts however keep grappling to find an answer to some important questions: Can the Chief of the Army staff proclaim a state of emergency? And can assemblies continue to function when the constitution has been held in abeyance? Is it not a virtual martial law?
General Musharraf may have to do a lot of explaining on all these issues. But he has sent the country into a tailspin just to save his job as president by a process which the apex court was widely believed to declare ultra vires. The move came at a time when he was under immense domestic and foreign pressure to expedite the process of the country's transition to democracy.
This government having lost its focus on crucial issues should not ignore the serious consequences of the extra-constitutional measure it has finally resorted to. It needs to understand that despite numerous differences within the opposition ranks it is united on one point i.e. any measures that are likely to lead to the postponement of the elections, suspension of fundamental rights or emasculation of the courts would be strongly resisted.
The situation in the country may be the reason for imposition of emergency. The militia of Fazlullah, the warlord of Swat, has defeated the paramilitary forces sent in to "bring peace to the people of the valley". Official spokesmen denied the defeat and the capture of paramilitaries by the militia, but the truth could not be hidden when this time, instead of beheading them, Fazlullah decided to free the 48 captives in Charbagh with Rs 500 notes of "baksheesh" stuck in their hands. The freed men declared they were not willing to fight their fellow-Muslims; some said they would leave their jobs and join the Taliban and fight for Islam instead.
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