Western media suffers 'democracy amnesia' as dictaror Musharraf crushes dissent
Thousands face down Pakistani police
By MUNIR AHMAD, Associated Press
Police fired tear gas and clubbed thousands of lawyers protesting President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule, as Western allies threatened to review aid to the troubled Muslim nation. More than 1,500 people have been arrested in 48 hours, and authorities put a stranglehold on independent media.
Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup and is also head of Pakistan's army, suspended the constitution on Saturday ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on whether his recent re-election as president was legal. He ousted independent-minded judges and granted sweeping powers to authorities to crush dissent.
Though public anger was mounting in the nation of 160 million people, which has been under military rule for much of its 60-year history, demonstrations so far have been limited largely to activists, rights workers and lawyers. All have been quickly and sometimes brutally stamped out.President Bush's top national security aides said U.S. financial backing for Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts likely will go uninterrupted despite the administration's unhappiness with Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency.
Pakistan has received billions of dollars in aid since Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Musharraf to follow through on past promises to "take off his uniform." "We believe that the best path for Pakistan is to quickly return to a constitutional path and then to hold elections," said Rice, who earlier indicated that some of the non-military aid to Pakistan would be reviewed.
A team of U.S. defense officials postponed plans to travel to Islamabad for talks Tuesday because of the crisis. Britain said it was reviewing its aid package to Pakistan, and the Dutch government suspended its aid on Monday, becoming the first country to do so.Musharraf reiterated to foreign ambassadors Monday that he was committed to complete the transition to democracy, though, under a state of emergency, parliamentary elections scheduled for January could be pushed back by up to a year, according to the government.
Critics say Musharraf imposed emergency rule in a last-ditch attempt to cling to power.His leadership is threatened by the Islamic militant movement that has spread from border regions to the capital, the reemergence of political rival and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and an increasingly defiant Supreme Court, which has been virtually decimated in the last two days.Since late Saturday, between 1,500 and 1,800 people have been detained nationwide, an Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. They include opposition leaders, lawyers and human rights activists who might mobilize protests.
At least 67 workers and supporters of Bhutto — who has held talks in recent months with Musharraf over an alliance to fight extremism — had been arrested, said Pakistan People's Party spokesman Farhatullah Babar.Lawyers — who were the driving force behind protests earlier this year when Musharraf tried unsuccessfully to fire independent-minded chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry — attempted to stage rallies in major cities on Monday, but were beaten and arrested.Chaudhry was removed from his post on Saturday, just as the Supreme Court was preparing to rule on the validity of Musharraf's Oct. 6 re-election. Opponents say he should be disqualified because he contested the vote as army chief.
In the biggest gathering Monday, about 2,000 lawyers congregated at the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore. As lawyers tried to exit onto a main road, hundreds of police stormed inside, swinging batons and firing tear gas. Lawyers, shouting "Go Musharraf Go!" responded by throwing stones and beating police with tree branches.Police bundled about 250 lawyers into waiting vans, an Associated Press reporter saw. At least two were bleeding from the head.Even lawyers who were not involved in protests appeared to be targeted. One, Imran Qadi Khan, said police pulled him off a bus near Musharraf's army office in Rawalpindi, just south of the capital, as he was heading to work, "We have been sitting here since morning," he said from prison. "The police are not telling us anything about what they plan to do with us." Another, Mohammad Khan Zaman, evaded capture by running to his nearby office. "The police arrested anyone wearing the lawyer's uniform," he said, referring to the profession's trademark black suits.
In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds of police and paramilitary troops lined roads and rolled out barbed-wire barricades on Monday to seal off the Supreme Court. Only government employees heading for nearby ministries were allowed through. Two black-suited lawyers whose car was stopped by police argued in vain that they should be granted entry. They were eventually escorted away by two police cars. A few dozen activists from hard-line Islamic parties gathered nearby, chanting slogans including "Hang, Musharraf, hang!" As well as calling for protests, lawyers' groups have vowed to boycott all court proceedings held in front of new judges sworn by Musharraf.
Rana Bhagwandas, a Supreme Court judge who refused to take oath under Musharraf's proclamation of emergency orders, said he has been locked inside in his official residence in Islamabad and that other judges were being pressured to support the government. "They are still working on some judges, they are under pressure," Bhagwandas told Geo TV in a phone interview. Authorities have imprisoned or put under house arrest key Musharraf critics, among them Javed Hashmi, the acting president of the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; cricket star-turned politician, Imran Khan; Asma Jehangir, chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; and Hamid Gul, former chief of the main intelligence agency.
Pakistan's largest religious party Jamaat-e-Islami reported that more than 500 of its workers and supporters had been detained since Sunday, including its leader, according to senior members of the party and police. Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum said Sunday a new panel of Supreme Court judges would rule "as early as possible" on Musharraf's eligibility for a new five-year presidential term.
Associated Press writers Zarar Khan in Islamabad, Ashraf Khan in Karachi, Khalid Tanweer in Multan and Zia Khan in Lahore contributed to this report.
Bush Urges Musharraf to Reverse Course but Signals No Penalty if He Doesn’t
By Mark Mazzetti
November 6, 2007
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 — President Bush on Monday urged Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, to hold elections and give up his army post “as soon as possible,” but gave no indication that the general’s imposition of emergency rule would bring about any significant change in American policy.
The comments were the first by Mr. Bush since General Musharraf’s move over the weekend ignited a constitutional crisis. Mr. Bush would not comment about what the United States might do if the Pakistani leader ignored the pleas, saying only, “I hope he takes my advice.” Mr. Bush also praised General Musharraf as a “strong fighter against extremists and radicals.”Over the past year, senior lawmakers in Congress have sometimes warned that aid to Pakistan could be in jeopardy if General Musharraf did not act aggressively against Islamic militants, and White House officials have sometimes used those threats in private meetings to press the Pakistani leader.
But there was no sign on Monday that Democratic leaders in Congress would try to push Mr. Bush to cut aid to Pakistan now. Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, a member of the Armed Services Committee who has publicly criticized Pakistan over its efforts to counter terrorism, said that it was important to maintain a “constructive dialogue” with Pakistan and that dialogue could be lost if Congress were to reduce the flow of money to Islamabad. A Bush administration official who works on Pakistan issues acknowledged that with the United States having already invested so much in General Musharraf, there was little Washington could do in response to the Pakistani president’s actions that did not have the potential to undermine American goals. “When you owe the bank a million dollars, you have a problem; but when you owe the bank $100 million, the bank has a problem,” he said. The official, like some others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject publicly.
Democratic presidential candidates have seized on the weekend’s events to criticize the close ties the White House has nurtured with General Musharraf since the Sept. 11 attacks. Aid has included more than $10 billion in assistance, most of it to the military, to help root out Qaeda and Taliban operatives in the country’s mountainous tribal areas. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, called the Bush administration’s approach to Pakistan “fundamentally incoherent.” Yet neither Mrs. Clinton nor any of her fellow candidates offered details about how they would chart a different course than the one that the White House has followed for the past six years.
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview on Monday that it was likely that General Musharraf decided he could defy the United States in part because “we convinced him we had a buddy here that no administration was going to walk away from.”Senator Biden said General Musharraf should proceed with elections in January, set up an independent commission to ensure that the elections are fair and reach a political deal with Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister who the United States hopes can negotiate a power sharing arrangement with the general. “If that didn’t work out, I’d get on the right side of history. I’d cut off support,” he said. Mr. Bush’s call for swift elections was reinforced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a private phone call to Pakistan’s leader on Monday.
A senior administration official said the administration began to hear warnings from Pakistani officials about the possibility of an emergency declaration a week ago. That prompted a frantic and unsuccessful effort by administration officials — though not Mr. Bush himself — to persuade General Musharraf’s government not to go ahead with its plan. “What we think we ought to be doing is using our various forms of influence at this point in time to help a friend who we think has done something ill-advised,” the official said.The official said the Bush administration had been “encouraged” by indications from Islamabad that General Musharraf may still be willing to hold elections in the near future and that the political crisis could be solved in the coming days.
Of the more than $10 billion in American assistance since the Sept. 11 attacks, over $6 billion has been to Pakistan’s military for what its says are efforts to fight Islamic militants, according to a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research group. Just over 10 percent of the aid has been used for humanitarian assistance in Pakistan, according to the study, and another $1.6 billion has been sent in part to buy big-ticket weapons such as F-16 jets and P-3 Orion patrol aircraft. It is this last category — weapons that Pakistan has sought primarily to keep pace with rival India — that officials said Monday could get the closest scrutiny from Congress. Lawmakers may be willing to put restrictions on future payments for high-tech weapons that are less critical for counterterrorism operations.
“Do you need an F-16 to deliver ordnance on a mud hut?” said a senior Democratic congressional aide who said he expected lawmakers to at least consider putting strings on future payments to Pakistan. “You don’t.”
Marc Santora and Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting.