Pakistani dictator General Musharaff has decided against imposing a State of Emergency - martial law - after widespread reports caused the Karachi stock market to tumble and ordinary Pakistanis became alarmed for prospects of democracy.
After speaking to Gen Musharraf by phone the information minister, Muhammad Ali Durrani, said there had been "suggestions from the ruling coalition and other political entities" to impose a state of emergency. But, he said, "ultimately it was decided that this is not the time".A 2am phone call from Condi Rice may have also had something to do with Musharaff's decision - I've no doubt she told him that Bush administration support would become politically impossible if he declared a State of Emergency and destroyed any hope of free elections later this year. Bush himself followed up Condi's call today by telling the world:
Some analysts saw the U-turn as a sign of disarray in the Musharraf camp, as both the president and his political allies run out of options to quell an escalating political crisis.
...Meanwhile Gen Musharraf's supporters in the PML-Q - a party he created to bolster his democratic credentials - are also worried about the prospect of leaving power.
Talat Masood, a political analyst and former army general, said the imposition of emergency rule would have been a "weapon of mass political destruction" for Gen Musharraf.
"I think he reflected and got cold feet. It's possible that he was about to take a decision, but then people told him he was committing the same blunder as in the chief justice case," he said.
"My focus in terms of the domestic scene there is that he have a free and fair election and that's what we have been talking to him about and hopefully they will."I would like to see such elections too - but I'm sure Musharaff wouldn't. He's going to keep trying to hold on to both political and military power and if he fails to do so, I'm sorry to say the most likely scenario is another military coup.
Update Musharaff's surrogate at the "peace jiirga" in Afghanistan that the dictator side-stepped so he could have his meeting to consider martial law was in typical prevaricating mood.
The head of Pakistan's delegation, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, said the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan are intertwined, and that instability in one country affects the other. But he also said Afghanistan needed to address its own insurgency problems and not cast blame on Pakistan.Everyone else, including NATO, the US and Afghanistan, says Taliban militants enjoy a safe haven in Pakistani border regions, particularly Waziristan, where Washington also fears al-Qaida is regrouping.
"Afghanistan is not yet at peace within itself. The objective of national reconciliation remains elusive," Aziz said. "They can't blame anyone else for failing to achieve this objective that lies at the heart of their malaise."