Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stratfor: Expecting a Crackdown




Here is the latest take on Pakistan from the Strategic Forecasting Inc.
_________________________________________

Geopolitical Diary: Musharraf Cracks Down
June 01, 2007 02 00 GMT

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Thursday called an emergency meeting of the country's top military brass, including corps commanders and agency heads, for June 1 to discuss the domestic political situation. The same day, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sen. Muhammad Ali Durrani announced that all private electronic media outlets must now obtain permission from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority before each live broadcast. Pakistan's Supreme Court also said it plans to investigate reports of state authorities and political groups harassing and threatening journalists.

The country's increasingly assertive judiciary and media have played a key role in the growing crisis of governance. The most recent blow to Musharraf came May 26 during a Supreme Court Bar Association seminar entitled "Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary," when several prominent lawyers harshly criticized the government and the military's control of the state. Several TV channels carried the event live.

The seminar enraged the Musharraf regime, which responded by saying abusive and derogatory remarks about national institutions, especially the armed forces, will not be tolerated. In a May 30 speech to officers at the Jehlum garrison, Musharraf warned the media to stop politicizing the judicial crisis, though media criticism of the Pakistani government is hardly unprecedented.

In fact, the country has seen a major proliferation of private television channels under Musharraf's rule. The government allowed this in order to counter public criticism that it is a military-dominated autocratic regime. It also could afford to allow the increasingly vibrant media its freedom since Musharraf faced no real challenge to his rule.

But in the wake of the suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, this vibrancy has damaged the public perception of the government. Yet, because the country's opposition parties continue to be divided over how to move against Musharraf, media coverage of political events and the broadcasting of damning criticism have not resulted in the protests attaining critical mass. Nonetheless, the government is moving toward a major crackdown that will drastically curtail free speech.

The nature of the criticism -- which has been aimed not only at the president, but also at the military's domination of the state -- and its reception within Musharraf's own constituency could present major problems for Musharraf's ability to rule.

Musharraf's most important source of power is the support he receives from the military, particularly the army. Criticism of Musharraf due to his dual role as military chief and president is one thing, but the questioning of the military's control over the state changes things dramatically. This forces the top generals to question Musharraf's ability to look after the military's interests. Hence, Musharraf is rushing to clamp down on the media. He must now show the generals he is very much in control and is capable of ensuring that the military maintains its hold on the state. Losing the confidence of the army's senior leadership would prove fatal to his own hold on power.

It is unlikely a crackdown on political dissent will help Musharraf shore up his position; in fact, it likely will make the situation worse for him. The verdict in Chaudhry's appeal case and the controversial presidential vote set to take place in September will only accelerate the momentum of the country's growing unrest.

© Copyright 2007 Strategic Forecasting Inc.




5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Hum Dekhain Gey
Lazim ha kay
Hum Dekhain Gey"
-Faiz
=============================


Aik dhakka aur, one push more

By Ayaz Amir

THE army is worried that it is being maligned in the current agitation. It should be worried. Slogans raised against it have never been heard in Punjab, the army’s heartland, before. Gen Musharraf addressed the officers of the Jhelum garrison on Wednesday. From the newspaper pictures available, the assembled officers, especially the senior-most in the front row, looked pretty glum. What was on their minds?

But who is bringing the army into disrepute? Lawyers, columnists, street riff-raff or the army itself? When the army involves itself in politics, when its chief wants to stick to power regardless of the consequences, when he patronises an organisation such as the MQM, the army, willy-nilly, comes into the firing line of public opinion.

Lawyers are not bringing a bad name to the army. The army high command is. What does the nation want? What is the cry coming from the depths of its soul? The supremacy of the law and the Constitution. The army will earn respect to the extent it remains faithful to its charter of defending the nation’s frontiers. It will lose it when it loses its way.

For 60 years the nation has fed and sustained the army not to fight New Zealand, Uzbekistan or the Republic of South Africa but to stand up to Indian hegemony. This army-led government has grovelled before India. What is then left of its raison d’etre?

But the central issue in this agitation is somewhat different: nothing less than the country’s future. As Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim has pithily put it before the Supreme Court, “Time has come to say goodbye to the gun, and if not, then say goodbye to the Constitution.” The gun or the Constitution, once and for all let this be decided. What is Pakistan to be –– a banana republic or a self-respecting democracy? Who is to exercise sovereignty in it –– Parliament or Triple One Brigade?

Two dates will stand out in our history: March 9 when Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry stood up to military diktat, thereby setting in motion the chain of events which constitute the present movement; May 12 when the emperor appeared without his clothes, the spiritual kinship between him and the MQM revealed to the naked eye.

But even dark clouds have silver linings and the silver lining in the present situation is that Karachi’s dominant party took a step too far on May 12, over-reaching itself and thus inviting a bitter backlash and now retribution.

On the morning of May 12 I was at the Tibet Centre where the MQM was holding its so-called rally, standing next to Nasreen Jalil, Karachi’s deputy mayor, and Babar Khan Ghouri, MQM federal minister. Having witnessed how the MQM had barricaded the entire city---no one needing binoculars to see what was going on---I told them that they were not realising the consequences of what they were was up to (and this was before word had come that people were being killed). Nasreen represents the more moderate, presentable face of the MQM. I told her that when evening came, as it surely would, the responsibility of the day’s events would rest on the MQM’s shoulders.

Know what Ghouri said? That Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had not come to the Quaid’s mazar to offer fateha before, implying that his wanting to come on may 12 was a sign of impending mischief. As if a visa from the MQM was required to enter the city and visit the Quaid’s mazar.

Gen Musharraf has plugged the same line: as Karachi’s dominant party, how could the MQM allow the Chief Justice and his supporters to take out a procession in Karachi because that would have given a wrong impression of the MQM’s popularity? Amazing, and then the army is worried that its image is being maligned.

During the last seven and a half years, now close to eight, only on two occasions has the nation come alive. At the time of the massive earthquake which struck Azad Kashmir and northern Hazara Division in October 2005 when people from across Pakistan held out a hand of assistance to their brothers and sisters in distress. And now during this movement which again proves that this nation is alive.

This movement is like no other in our history. The anti-Ayub agitation of 1968-69 and the anti-Bhutto agitation of 1977 were both vague about their aims and thus easily hijacked by military adventurism. This movement has clear aims: constitutional supremacy and an end to military hegemony.

The political landscape already stands altered, the judiciary more emboldened and the regime put on the defensive. But one ingredient is still missing: a clear, unambiguous stand on the part of the opposition parties. The people of Pakistan know what they want. Lawyers know what they want. But the political parties are either playing games with themselves or living in a world of their own.

At what stage are the Swiss corruption cases against Benazir Bhutto and her husband? I for one don’t know. But because of them or some other reason she is dallying with Musharraf. At least that is the impression her statements and interviews give. Maybe she is just trying to extract concessions and won’t do a deal. But her ambiguity is confusing her supporters who are left in two minds about what to do.

She says her party will not vote for Musharraf. This is not good enough. If Musharraf insists on the charade of getting ‘elected’ by these assemblies, will the PPP legislators resign? We are hearing nothing clear-cut on this score.

Also a picture of confusion is the MMA. Qazi Hussain Ahmed professes a hard line but the Jamaat-i-Islami has yet to throw itself fully into this movement. As for Maulana Fazlur Rahman, he remains the undisputed champion of double-talk, saying one thing, doing another, his ambivalence fuelling suspicion that he remains a secret weapon of Gen Musharraf’s. He too is yet to say that the MMA will resign from the assemblies in case Musharraf seeks a rubber stamp from them.

Insofar as this is a time of standing up and being counted, ambiguity is akin to sabotage and betrayal. When events move fast, they wait for no one and spare no one. Look at Musharraf whose many slips during this season of discontent have branded him an MQM supporter. He can wash himself in holy water but this label won’t easily wash. As the charge of betrayal wouldn’t easily wash in the case of Benazir Bhutto and Maulana Fazlur Rahman if they waste any more time clarifying their real position.

Nawaz Sharif says, nothing doing with Musharraf. But what good is this clarity if he remains holed up in London, playing Khomeini-in-waiting on some of the plushest sofas money can buy? Why isn’t he coming back? Is a forced return to Saudi Arabia the spectre haunting him? Whatever the case, his absence from the scene prevents the PML-N from being fully galvanised. The iron is hot but will bend only before those who strike it.

Imran’s is a lone voice in the wilderness, still a shepherd without much of a flock. But he should be grateful to the MQM for giving him the kind of publicity that money can’t buy. The ban on his entering Sindh has done him good as has the MQM’s poster and placard campaign (since hastily called off) calling him names and lambasting him for ‘promiscuity’. Since when did a charge of promiscuity hurt a man? Whom the gods would destroy they first make ridiculous. The MQM has been painting itself in the colours of ridicule.

Anyway, the political parties are lagging behind the rest of the nation. The leading light of this struggle is My Lord the Chief Justice, no doubt about it. With him stand, in the van of this movement, the nation’s lawyers, united and determined like never before, sustaining the struggle for democracy and lifting the nation’s spirits. In the process a new iconography is being born –– the nation’s new heroes the likes of Ali Ahmed Kurd (more power to his fiery oratory), Munir A. Malik, Aitzaz Ahsan et al, and justices of the different high courts who have lit the way for the rest of the judiciary to follow.

The media has produced its own heroes –– reporters and anchorpersons, who have brought not only the drama and excitement of this struggle into living rooms across the country, but also its meaning and significance. This is the first tele-movement in the country’s history, its impact such that entertainment programmes have had to yield place to judicial and political news. When the CJ goes to address a bar association, the nation, glued to its TV sets, travels with him.

But the political parties, victims of confusion or expediency, lag behind. They still have a role to play but only if they can bring themselves to adopting a clear, unambiguous stand regarding Musharraf’s ‘reelection’. And to be of any use, they must do this now, in the next 20-30 days, rather than wait for Sep/Oct when it might already be too late.

Are the assorted maulanas whom it has been our misfortune to endure, and those who lay claim to the mantle of the East, capable of this? We shall see.

Anonymous said...

Dr Ayesha’s book, “Military Inc: Inside Pakistan Military Economy”, would create formidable problems for Gen Pervez Musharraf and his military generals.

The launching ceremony of a book ‘Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy,’ written by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa and published by the Oxford University Press, at the LEAD Pakistan office on Thursday.

According to Ayesha Siddiqa, the venue of the book launching ceremony was shifted to the LEAD Pakistan office from Islamabad Club at the eleventh hour as the government had ordered all the hotels and the clubs not to allow.

The British media says respected Pakistani woman scholar Dr Ayesha Siddiqa’s book on the Pakistan Army is set to become a major issue for General Musharraf, after the sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The media predicted that Dr Ayesha’s book, “Military Inc: Inside Pakistan Military Economy”, would create formidable problems for Gen Pervez Musharraf and his military generals. “It (book) has come at a sensitive time for Gen Musharraf”, who is struggling to rebuild his popularity after the botched dismissal of Chief Justice Chaudhry”, The Guardian writes.

Aitzaz said security of a country lies in welfare of its citizens where people have a sense of belonging and democracy nourishes. He said Ayub Khan turned Pakistan into a national security state from social welfare state to safeguard interests of half-a-million soldiers. He said that a national security state needs an enemy. A Kargil-like intervention in Runn of Kachh transformed an ‘unfriendly’ India into an ‘enemy’ state after the 1965 war.

Aitzaz criticised, what he said, the ‘Mullah-Military Alliance,’ starting with Al-Badr and Al-Shams in Bangladesh, and is still continuing. He said that March 9 was a turning point and “we must grasp the opportunity when a civilian sitting among the uniformed says a big no.” He said that Gen Pervez Musharraf was giving distorted versions again and again to the press so “we were compelled to file the affidavit out of forensic norms and exigencies of that case.”

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa said that the country’s military is a huge corporate sector, notwithstanding the statements of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and senior generals. She said that the military is present in areas where demand is extensive or where it is close to a monopoly. She said that politicians could learn a lot from the military on how to legalise corruption. She said that it is just peanuts that trickles down to poor soldiers. Siddiqa fears her book, which names and pours cold water on boastful claims, may step on some powerful toes. “Over the past three years, a lot of my friends have advised me not to publish this book. They think I have suicidal tendencies.”


Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N lamented that military generals have not learnt from history. The myth that the army intervenes to end a crisis had to be shattered. They all came for their own interests and no one went out with grace but after causing a disaster, he said. Columnist Dr Farrukh Saleem said that the country’s armed forces are not only a dominant political force but they are also in business, agriculture, real estate, industry, hosiery, security, information technology, construction, housing and what not.

AAS said...

Very interesting atricles. But again i don't want NS and BB back. She was found guilty be a swiss court...and the only reason she was not found guilty on all charges was because the court did not have jurisdicition.

I would Imran Khan...but not the other two at any price.

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