Via the New Duranty Times:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 4 “” The Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency on Saturday night, suspending the country”s Constitution, firing the chief justice of the Supreme Court and filling the streets of this capital city with police officers.
The move appeared to be an effort by General Musharraf to reassert his fading power in the face of growing opposition from the country”s Supreme Court, political parties and hard-line Islamists. Pakistan’s Supreme Court had been expected to rule within days on the legality of General Musharraf’s re-election last month as the country”s president.
The emergency act, which analysts and opposition leaders said was more a declaration of martial law, also boldly defied the Bush administration, which had repeatedly urged General Musharraf to avoid such a path and instead move toward democracy.
Washington has generously backed the general, sending him more than $10 billion in aid since 2001, mostly for the military. Now the administration finds itself in the bind of having to publicly castigate the man it has described as one of its closest allies in fighting terrorism.
In blunt and brief comments on Saturday, American officials condemned General Musharraf’s move. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded a “quick return to constitutional law.” And in Washington, the White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said, “This action is very disappointing,” and he called on General Musharraf to honor his earlier pledge to resign as army commander and hold nationwide elections before Jan. 15.
Someone needs to explain to Bush, Rice, et al. — in patient, monosyllables no doubt — that “democracy” is hardly the panacea they believe it to be. One hardly has to regard General Musharraf a saint in order to appreciate that his removal would more likely usher in an era of Sharia and jihad than New-England-town-meeting-style democracy. One need only look to the recent precedents of Algeria, Gaza, Turkey, and Iraq, to see where “democracy” in the Islamic world leads.
In Pakistan, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the main opposition leader, returned early from a visit in Dubai, setting up the possibility that she and her party, as well as other opposition groups like the powerful lawyers” body here, could organize demonstrations against the president. After landing in Karachi, she mocked General Musharraf and accused him of using the specter of terrorism to prolong his hold on power. “This is not emergency,” she said. “This is martial law.”
Just after midnight, General Musharraf appeared on state-run television. In a 45-minute speech, he said he had declared the emergency to limit terrorist attacks and “preserve the democratic transition that I initiated eight years back.”
He gave no firm date for nationwide elections that had been scheduled for January and said his current Parliament, which he dominates, would remain in place. He did not say how long the state of emergency would be maintained.
The general, dressed in civilian clothes, quoted Lincoln, citing the former president’s suspension of some rights during the American Civil War as justification for his own state of emergency.
Opposition leaders condemned the emergency declaration. Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent lawyer who led protests against General Musharraf this spring, was detained by the police after saying that opposition groups would announce a schedule of nationwide strikes and protests on Monday.
Before being detained, he accused General Musharraf of “criminal flouting of the Constitution,” adding, “The people and the lawyers cannot be suspended.”
Too bad about the lawyers.