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Musharref Spells Democracy With Martial Law and Arrests

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, yielded to intense American pressure on Sunday by restoring parliamentary elections in early January, but he said his emergency decree would last at least through then. Musharraf’s security forces have arrested 2,500 civilians, he has suspended the Constitution, blocked independent news channels and banned public gatherings. This is NO democracy.

Pakistan

In another expansion of power, the government announced Saturday that it had amended an army law so that civilians could be prosecuted by military courts. The last time Pakistani civilians faced courts-martial was during the 11-year military dictatorship of Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, which ended in 1988.

In Baluchistan, the government said two politicians from the province, Mir Hasil Bizenjo and Yusuf Mastikhan, would be charged with treason for protesting emergency rule. Muhammad Ali Saif, a government legal adviser, said the burning of army uniforms by political protesters would also be prosecuted in military courts.

Opposition politicians have said the president acted because the Supreme Court was days away from ruling on the legality of his re-election last month. The verdict had been widely expected to declare General Musharraf ineligible to serve another term.

The Pakistani leader spent 10 minutes on Saturday giving a detailed accounting of corruption and abuse of power allegations against the chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who became highly popular in recent months for challenging General Musharraf’s authority. “No one is above the law, ladies and gentlemen,” General Musharraf said.

American officials and General Musharraf’s most important political rival, the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, endorsed his announcement of January elections as a small step. But Bhutto is probably going to have to form an alliance with Musharraf, which will destroy her credibility and popularity.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s political instability raises the nuclear risk. Pentagon officials say Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure in military hands, but some U.S. lawmakers and experts warn that nuclear material and designs could leak out if political instability persists. A decline in his support within the military amid the current political crisis raises a risk that control over the weapons could weaken. That could open the door to theft or sale of weapons material to extremist groups, some experts say.

If General Musharraf is overthrown, no one is quite sure what will happen to the team he has entrusted to safeguard the arsenal. There is some hope that the military as an institution could reliably keep things under control no matter who is in charge, but that is just a hope.

Both the Bush and previous Clinton administrations have had contingency plans in place to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if the country erupted in civil war. However the United States does not have a complete picture on where all the nuclear material is stored.

Administration officials say privately that if the chaos in the streets worsens, or Al Qaeda exploits the moment, Pakistan’s government could become distracted from monitoring scientists, engineers and others who, out of religious zeal or plain old greed, might see a moment to sell their knowledge and technology.

“The nightmare scenario, of course, is what happens if an extremist Islamic government emerges — with an instant nuclear arsenal,” said Robert Joseph, a counter-proliferation expert who left the administration this year. John R. Bolton, the former United Nations representative who has accused Mr. Bush of going soft on proliferation, said more bluntly that General Musharraf’s survival was critical. “While Pervez Musharraf might not be a Jeffersonian democrat,” Mr. Bolton said, “he is the best bet to secure the nuclear arsenal.”

An unstable and crippled Pakistan poses a bigger threat than the nuclear ambitions of Iran. Al Queda and the Taliban who are comfortably safe in the tribal hamlets of northern Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan are just waiting patiently for Musharref and his government to fall.

I guarantee you that U.S Special Forces are standing by in primed readiness to go in and secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. We have a history of having to clean up the political messes we help to create.

Posted: 2130PT 11/11/07


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One Comment leave one →
  1. cmblake6 permalink
    Monday, November 26, 2007 8:24 pm

    We’ve, ahem, set up things in the past regarding populations wanting freedom.

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