Situation in parts of Pakistan has been deteriorating and now parts of the country have been handed over to the army. Now there will be full-scale war. Death and destruction will now be the fate of Swat region. Rulers can rightly be held responsible for this situation.
Politics in the country is also in a state of confusion. All the political parties want to remove the president, but due to backing from President Bush he is still in the office.
According to an editorial comment: Having challenged the Punjab bailiwick of the ruling PMLQ with a Long March, Ms Benazir Bhutto should have expected this reaction. She has been placed under house arrest for seven days and the “long march” has been simply thwarted, for the time being at least. The Punjab government has quoted chapter and verse of the laws in force against rallies and has reinforced the action by producing an unusually ridiculous-sounding “evidence” that suicide-bombers had been sent into Lahore by the Taliban to kill her. Ms Bhutto has reacted to the seven-day restraining order by saying, “We are saying no to any more talks. We cannot work with anyone who has suspended the Constitution, imposed emergency rule, and oppressed the judiciary. That’s why we wanted to hold the long march”. Then she went all the way and asked General Musharraf to step down. There is a finality in this statement that is unmistakeable. Is she ready to join Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Qazi Hussain Ahmad in settling for nothing less than the ouster of General Pervez Musharraf?
More questions follow. Does this mean that the numbers which General Pervez Musharraf had on his side have suddenly dwindled? Is Maulana Fazlur Rehman also going to follow in Ms Bhutto’s footsteps by backing off from his pragmatism for fear of losing votes. Is the grand Musharrafian overture with the PPP definitely over?
There is a lack of credibility among some black-and-white thinkers in the grand opposition, APDM. This is proved by a statement which says: “Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan under a deal with the government, and that despite the imposition of Section 144, she is moving freely under state security while several APDM leaders had been detained”. This is the supposed reason why the APDM has refused to accept the open invitation by the PPP to “all and sundry” to join yesterday’s Long March. The clear rejectionists were Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e Insaf and Jamaat-e Islami; the PMLN decided to stay away on the excuse that it had not been invited by name.
Until now, a grand opposition that is every civil society activists dream has not materialised. One division of course is the big polarity between the APDM and the PPP, but there is also subtle differentiation among the stances adopted by the member parties. Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUIF is still standing aside on the issue of an election boycott and refuses to be identified clearly with the more radical Jamaat-e Islami. But this could change in the coming days if General Musharraf drives the opposition closer through his isolationist policies. Certainly, the road traversed by the PPP since Ms Bhutto’s arrival clearly shows a carefully thought-out strategy to recover the lost mileage with the electorate by challenging General Musharraf on the Emergency, his uniform, and now even his presidency. Her challenge is clearly to Punjab where the big vote is alienated from the Musharraf regime — and partly from the “deal-making” PPP — on many counts.
This has clearly panicked the Punjab administration which has confined her after revealing threats to her life by the terrorists from the Tribal Areas. A Taliban commander funnily named “Qazi Hussain Ahmad” has allegedly sent a batch of suicide-bombers to Punjab to get her while eight North Waziristani suicide-bombers are already in hiding in Lahore. To add to the threat, the Punjab Home Department has disclosed that an Arab suicide-bomber is also in residence in Lahore and is getting ready to kill her. After this, the Punjab administration is pretending it has no choice but to confine her and ban the “long march”. It was propagated that the long march would be swelled by participation from the PPP rank and file, including women and children from all walks of life, and wind through many districts of Punjab (Ghazi Road, General Hospital, Chungi Amar Sadhu, Kasur, Dipalpur, Okara, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Ferozwala, Muridke, Kamonke, Gujranwala, Lala Musa, Kharian, Jhelum and Gujjar Khan) for seven days before concluding in Islamabad. The idea clearly was to make a show of strength and strengthen Ms Bhutto’s position in the Punjab, in the media and among civil society oppositionists.
The compulsion of the PPP to end its isolation-by-association with General Musharraf has become intense as he adopts a course that no political party with an eye to the vote bank can stomach. The course adopted for this “correction” by the PPP is agitation while the other opposition parties are mulling their strategies of resistance under Emergency laws. But the problem with the APDM opposition is that radical leaders like Imran Khan and Qazi Hussain Ahmad don’t have the big crowds to make an impact on the government and force the general to leave the scene. Mr Nawaz Sharif of PMLN is weighing the odds and still hopes to get the PPP to line up with the rest and challenge the government. The ultimate strategy would be the consensual boycott of the January 2008 elections under General Musharraf. But that would only happen after a complete and visible BB-Musharraf rupture. Her latest statement that if elected prime minister she would refuse to take oath from President Musharraf and that General Musharraf must go is a sign that she is very close to the brink.