The Times had a piece today on Pakistan titled Genteel hunger strike and a protest in suits poses big threat to President.
Here are some extracts:
The saga began on March 9, when General Musharraf called in Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, his Chief Justice, and told him to resign for allegedly abusing his authority. When Mr Chaudhry refused he was summarily suspended, manhandled by police and put under effective house arrest.And this is The Times correspondent Jeremy Page’s take on the future:
To most of the outside world, the incident came as no great surprise, given General Musharraf’s track record of crushing all political dissent. But the 100,000 lawyers and judges of Pakistan, who regard themselves as the country’s last democratic redoubt, were incensed.
They accused General Musharraf of violating the constitution to get rid of an independent-minded Chief Justice who could block the President’s plans to be reelected while remaining head of the army.
Thousands took to the streets in their black suits and starched collars, battling with riot police in Islamabad, Lahore and other cities. At least seven judges and one deputy attorney-general resigned.
…This is by no means the first challenge to General Musharraf’s rule. In the eight years since he took power, the former commando has survived at least four assassination attempts and mass protests by Islamists. What makes this so serious is that it is the first time that secular forces from across the political spectrum have united to oppose him.
It also comes as American officials and politicians start to question his democratic credentials and his ability to fight the Taleban and al-Qaeda along the Afghan border.
Last month Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, warned him that he risked losing support in the United States unless he took tougher action against the insurgents. This month a group of Democratic senators wrote to the Pakistani President asking him to guarantee fair parliamentary elections next year and to allow exiled opposition leaders to contend.
“The feeling is growing that President Pervez Musharraf will have to quit sooner rather than later,” said Ahmed Rashid, an expert on Pakistani politics. “After eight years of military rule, it appears people have had enough.”
General Musharraf now hopes to persuade the PPP, which won 25.8 per cent of the vote in 2002, to form a new coalition that would represent Pakistan’s moderate, secular majority. But the PPP is likely to demand that he step down as Army chief, guarantee fair elections and allow Mrs Bhutto or another one of its leaders to be Prime Minister. And while the President is unlikely to give up without a fight, his negotiating position has been severely weakened by the Chief Justice controversy.