Chaos gripped the streets of Karachi yesterday as gun battles left at least 31 people dead and hundreds more injured, threatening a complete breakdown of law and order in Pakistan's largest and most volatile city.The MQM's actions are seen by Pakistanis as being wholey within the control of Musharaff and thus ordered or condoned by him. That perception is bolstered by the inaction of police and paramilitary rangers. Moreover, the "rebellion" against Musharaff doesn't have its root in Islamist extremism, but rather in outrage among the middle class and professionals that Musharaff is so obviously doing an end-run around what is left of pakistani democracy and the rule of law.
Inside Mr Chaudhry's intended destination, Sind's high court, hundreds of lawyers, some of them bloodied after being beaten up by MQM supporters, milled about chanting slogans and receiving news on their mobile phones about the trouble engulfing them. Outside, MQM activists with pistols tucked into their jeans, blocked the entrance.Meanwhile, Musharaff's support is collapsing. Even though government workers were given a half day holiday to attend a pro-Musharaff rally in the Pakistani capital today, only some 30,000 of what had hoped to be 300,000 supporters attended. Worse still, only 15,000 stuck around long enough to hear Musharaff speak and many of those told a Pakistani newspaper they had been promised payment for attending. The Daily Times also reported Human Rights Watch as saying that "the prevention of a peaceful reception for the chief justice by Musharraf’s supporters demonstrates the military government’s intolerance for civil society actions and has triggered widespread violence and death."
As Alex at The Blue State notes, for Americans that should bring "more starkly into relief the notion that 'our son of a bitch' in Pakistan may not be the Shining Knight of Democracy our PR people need to win hearts and minds there, or elsewhere."
Update I've a further post here, as the violence in Karachi continues into its second day. My belief is that Mushraff will increasingly have to rely on foreign backing by such as the Bush administration to bolsetr his regime - but even more heavily on the Islamists who now provide most of his at-home political support as well as infesting the military and intelligence service.