Saturday, November 3, 2007
Musharraf Clamps Down
After denying all week that he would declare a state of emergency, Pervez Musharraf went ahead and did just that today, according to breaking AP wire dispatches and Indian press reports. Not surprisingly, the Pakistani press has nothing on what's going on. The measure comes on the heels of Benazir Bhutto's return from exile and amidst ongoing negotiations to determine the power sharing arrangement between her and Musharraf. Complicating the domestic situation even further was the widening fighting between the Pakistani military and jihadi militants that has recently spread beyond the badlands of the Afghan border.
The roots of the current crisis can be found in Musharraf's recent election as president. At the time he had agreed to run as a civilian, only to backtrack and promise to resign as army chief-of-staff after the voting. The Supreme Court was set to deliver a ruling on the legality of that maneuver next week. Significantly, Musharraf declared the "provisional Constitutional order" in his capacity as army chief-of-staff.
When rumors of the state of emergency began surfacing earlier this week, Bhutto announced she would cancel a scheduled trip to her party's headquarters in Dubai, with the intention of mobilizing opposition from within Pakistan. Apparently she went ahead with the trip, leaving Pakistan on Thursday. After conflicting reports from Dubai, her husband announced she was already on her way back to Pakistan.
The major question yet to be answered is whether this is a move to consolidate power for power's sake, or if there really is a fear among the Pakistani military that the country would not be able to effectively defeat the growing Islamist threat in the face of political instability caused by a return to democracy. Either way, it deals a blow to American efforts to "legitimize" its tactical cooperation with the Pakistani regime.