Musharrif declares martial law, Bhutto flees, US at wits end

DEBKAfile: White House demand for Musharraf to reverse emergency measures is counter-productive for the US-NATO war on al Qaeda, Taliban

November 3, 2007, 10:33 PM (GMT+02:00)
Musharraf to nation: Law enforcement agencies are all demoralized.

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources: Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency, suspension of the Pakistani constitution and expulsion of the chief justice on Nov. 3, are likely to distance Islamabad from cooperation with the US-NATO war on al Qaeda and Taliban. Both terrorist groups have spread their wings to Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan, Kashmir and China.

President Musharraf’s move has in fact scuttled the Bush administration’s Pakistan policy. The cracks were first apparent two weeks ago when ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned home from eight years of exile. Washington forced Musharraf to accept her and open the way for her to re-enter political ranks in Islamabad even though her volatile presence was expected to stir up rather than calm the turbulence besetting the country.

Her conduct after her homecoming alarmed some circles in Washington, especially in the National Security Council. They began to fear that the Bhutto experiment had misfired.

The Bush administration’s first reaction to Musharraf’s emergency measures was to condemn him and put its trust in international pressure to force him to reverse them. DEBKAfile’s Pakistan sources report that Musharraf can keeping going because he holds a trump card: his cooperation with the US in the battle against al Qaeda and Taliban. Western attempts to twist his arm may well lead him to distance himself from this cooperation. And if they persist in their condemnation, Western governments and media may find they have driven him to eventually seek an understanding with Taliban elements and through them with al Qaeda to rid Pakistan’s western and northern borderlands of bloody warfare.

The Pakistan president will furthermore gradually ease the military pressure on the Taliban-al Qaeda sanctuaries. Quite simply, he needs the army to prop up his regime in Islamabad rather than taking casualties in often unsuccessful bouts with Muslim extremists in Waziristan and the Swat Valley.

With regard to opposition leader Bhutto Musharraf’s strategy is predictable. He did not stop her from alighting from the plane which rushed her back from Dubai to her home in Karachi Saturday. He also provided her with a police escort. If she goes along with his measures, he will be amenable to working out a new political accommodation with her. But if Bhutto decides to lead the opposition against him, she is likely to find herself confined to her residence and cut off from the outside world and her following at home.

Leading opposition politician Imran Khan was quickly placed under house arrest.

See also NYT

Pakistan PM reports 400-500 people detained “as a preventive measure,” elections could be postponed for up to a year

November 4, 2007, 2:36 PM (GMT+02:00)

In a news conference Sunday afternoon, Nov. 4, Pakistan PM Shaukat Aziz said elections could be postponed (from January) for up to a year. No decision has been made. But Pakistan will continue going forward to the “third phase” of the process to democracy. “Give us a few days,” he said.

The constitution is in abeyance but government and parliament will function as before, said Aziz. The judiciary will also function normally. For law enforcement we will use the police and paramilitary forces – not the army. We hope these extraordinary measures will bring the situation back to normal. We want a code of conduct whereby the media the media will show sensitivity and criticize – but not malign. We welcome constructive criticism from the media.

Correspondents pointed out that all independent broadcasting media are blocked. The emergency measures taken to ensure security and unity will remain for as long as necessary, said the PM. We will return to normality when we see improvements.

The President Pervez Musharraf will take off his uniform as army head – although not yet, he said.

November 4, 2007 | Comments Off on Musharrif declares martial law, Bhutto flees, US at wits end

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest