Thursday, August 09, 2007
UK Papers Lambaste Musharraf
Three of UK's leading newspapers have taken Musharraf to task over the emergency proclamation that was abandoned at the very last minute.
The Daily Telegraph: In Pakistan power ebbs away from Musharraf
Every day he and his small coterie of generals thrash around trying to find a way out of the deep political impasse they find themselves in, but there seems to be none.
After eight years in power Gen Musharraf, who is also army chief, is battling for his political survival, refusing to yield power to civilians and yet unable to exert the authority to rule what is fast becoming an anarchic nation armed with nuclear weapons.
Yesterday Gen Musharraf and his inner coterie considered taking the hard line by imposing a state of emergency which would have suspended fundamental rights, placed restrictions on the Supreme Court and delayed elections.
The week before they pursued the appeasement line, trying to strike a deal with Gen Musharraf's once hated enemy Benazir Bhutto.
The week before that it was all about coaxing support from President George W Bush. But nothing is working.
There is still no done deal with Ms Bhutto and yesterday after the army's civilian allies threatened to desert Gen Musharraf if an emergency were declared, the generals called off the idea - for the time being.
Mr Bush's words of support have been drowned out in a litany of accusations by US presidential candidates from the Democrat party that Gen Musharraf is double dealing the US on al-Qa'eda.
The tragedy is that Gen Musharraf is hell bent on preserving power come what may and the army is so far backing him.
…For too long the US and Britain have pandered to military rule in Pakistan and any further attempts to do so will ensure that millions of liberal Pakistanis come to hate the West.
The Guardian - Leader: State of many emergencies
Like a football manager declaring that he had the full confidence of the club chairman, President Pervez Musharraf's announcement that he was committed to holding free and fair elections in Pakistan was not so much meaningless as ominous. If, as his aides claimed, he has rejected the option of declaring a state of emergency, why had the same people flagged up the possibility so vociferously 24 hours earlier? Why did the general pull out of a peace conference in Kabul at the last minute? And what was the subject of the midnight conversation he had had with the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice? Even by Pakistan's standards, it was a hot and heavy day for an unpopular general clinging on to power.
…[A] more obvious theory for the vacillation was that it was just another symptom of the disarray in which Pakistan's military leader finds himself. He is floundering around, unable to find a political remedy for his problems. Time is running out if he wants to find a constitutional means to fulfil his desire to continue both as head of the army and as president: the mandate of parliament expires in mid-November. It is one of five bodies that forms an electoral college which choses the next president. .. So the political crunch is written into the calendar: between mid September and mid October. Unfortunately, every lever the general has considered pulling - such as a pact with Benazir Bhutto, the second exiled opposition leader, and one with whom he has held secret talks - would exert an equal and opposite force on the desired result. For the situation is so volatile that the mere return of Mr Sharif or Ms Bhutto to the country could in itself change the dynamics of the general's dilemma.
If there are few options for the general, there are even fewer for the US, other than to pray that their best friend in the region will muddle through. Washington's embrace may prove to be the general's undoing and it might be wiser to consider a power-sharing solution which bolsters, rather than undermines , the nation's institutions. The old dogma of Pakistan's army, that the country fares better under its generals than its politicians, is no longer true.
The Times - Leader: Musharraf on the Brink
Declaring a state of emergency would be a disaster for Pakistan
Pakistan’s Minister of Information said on Wednesday that President Musharraf’s abrupt decision not to attend a long-planned grand assembly of Pakistani and Afghan tribal leaders in Kabul was because of the “difficult circumstances” in Pakistan, which, he suggested, could lead to emergency rule. Yesterday, as rumours swept Islamabad, the head of General Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League swiftly played down the suggestion. If the embattled President was flying a kite, the reaction should be an obvious warning. However volatile Pakistan’s political and security situation appears now, a state of emergency would be a political and diplomatic disaster.
His present difficulties are largely self-created. The general’s coup in 1999 was initially welcomed by almost all Pakistanis, angered by corruption, stagnation and the bickering of venal politicians. To the outside world, he also seemed the best hope of stamping out corruption, confronting Islamist extremists and easing the tense stand-off with India. After 9/11 he also became a vital ally of the West, especially of America, in the fight against terrorism and the Taleban. But gradually he has alienated key constituencies, some worth confronting, others which should have been courted. His crackdown on Islamist militants has angered a swath of extremists, from pro-Taleban tribesmen in North West Frontier Province to antiIndian fighters in Kashmir. His failure to settle separatist grievances in Baluchistan and sectarian rivalries in Karachi has left large areas in quasi-rebellion against Islamabad. His anticorruption campaign and prevarication over a return to civilian rule have upset resentful political powerbrokers. And, more recently, his ill-judged dismissal of the Chief Justice and attempt to crack down on the press have caused uproar among the middle class. All have separate grievances, but General Musharraf’s often inept approach has united many in opposition to his rule.
It is, however, his insistence on standing again for office while refusing to step down as head of the army that has brought the present crisis to a head. He bases his legitimacy on a referendum result that was ratified by a Parliament which, thanks to his institution of corruption investigations against opponents, is largely under his control. That Parliament is due to be reelected next month. Before it is dissolved, however, President Musharraf wants it to reelect him for a further term, a decision he wants confirmed by the new Parliament. Despite denials, he has been discussing a deal with Benazir Bhutto, the exiled leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, that would deliver her party’s votes for his presidency.
The sticking point is his refusal to doff his uniform. He clearly has doubts about the loyalty of both the army and the ISI intelligence agency, both of which have been infiltrated by Islamists, and fears (based perhaps on his own example) that any new army head might harbour political ambitions. He argues to his American supporters that Pakistan faces a challenge by extremists, and that he must remain in power to fight them.
He is wrong on all counts. Islamist militants command little popular support: it was not the storming of the Red Mosque that brought crowds on to the street but the dismissal of the Chief Justice. Pakistan needs investment, education and civil society. General Musharraf should resign from the army, appeal to the middle class, seek political compromise and run on his otherwise commendable record. In the absence of any credible political opponent, he might still win.
Declaration of Emergency