Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pakistani powderkeg (Updated)

By Libby
Uodated by Cernig below

Capt. Ed is exercised over this piece of news.
Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency in Pakistan, apparently not content to wait for the Supreme Court decision on his presidential election victory last month. So far, he has given no reason for the declaration, although the military activity in Swat and Waziristan is presumably the basis:

[Note: post revised based on Cernig's update][I'm thinking] this may be more than a simple political powerplay on Musharraf's part. There appears to be a reason for legitimate concern.
SWAT, Pakistan - Muslim extremists are expanding their control of northern Pakistan, challenging the U.S.-backed government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and adding to the lands where terrorists allied with Osama bin Laden find refuge.

Once restricted to pockets in the mountains along the Afghanistan border, radical mullahs and their followers now wield power in vast areas of northwest Pakistan. They have moved in the past few months beyond the tribal regions and into northern Pakistan cities and the Swat Valley.

The increased influence of the Islamic radicals was highlighted this week by intense fighting between local gunmen and government troops. The government said about 180 people have been killed, mostly militants, in violence including bombings, abductions and shootouts.

Nonetheless, as Ed points out, the practical result of the declaration for the Pakistanis is disturbing.
A declaration of emergency means the upcoming parliamentary elections will not take place as scheduled in January. That will almost certainly split Bhutto from Musharraf, and it will mean that Musharraf will have to rely on his power base with the Army. That may not hold firm in a protracted fight against Islamist rebels, as the military's morale has already been questioned. It's a dangerous situation, and the declaration makes it even more so.

Maybe Cernig will want to offer the wonkery on this one later, but even to my less educated eyes this looks like a serious problem that could blow up at any second and I wonder what the White House position will be if it does. I can't help but think that the renewed strength of the rebels is directly tied to our neglecting to secure Afghanistan before Bush set off on his Excellent Iraq Misadventure and we have some responsibility here to address it.

I keep hearing that the surge has worked, AQ is broken and Iraq is just swimming in peaceful progress. If that's really true, it seems to me this would be an opportune time to redeploy our troops out of there and take the 'war' on terror back to where the terrorists who attacked us actually live -- Afghanistan. It looks like the hot terrorist action is going to be found on that border, not Iran.

Update By Cernig

Well Hells. I wake up to this?

I noticed yesterday the Dubai press reporting that Bhutto had returned there to visit her children, who had smartly been left there in the interim. Now the AP has an update to it's report:
Pakistan's main opposition leader, Benezir Bhutto, flew back to the country from Dubai and was sitting in an airplane at Karachi's airport, waiting to see if she would be arrested or deported, a spokesman said. Dozens of paramilitary troops surrounded her house.

Seven Supreme Court judges immediately came out against the emergency, which suspended the current constitution. Police blocked entry to the Supreme Court building and later took the chief justice and other judges away in a convoy, witnesses said.

The government halted all television transmissions in major cities other than state-controlled Pakistan TV. Telephone service in the capital, Islamabad, was cut.

A copy of the emergency order obtained by The Associated Press justified the declaration on the grounds that "some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive" and "weakening the government's resolve" to fight terrorism.
So, firstly, Captain Ed Libby was wildly wrong about the reasons for calling martial law (which is what it is, by any other name). The proclamation of emergency mentions terrorism as a factor, but it's clearly just a red herring before moving on to the grievances Musharaff has with the Supreme Court. He's right about there being no elections now, though.

Secondly - the timing is that thursday Bhutto left Pakistan and Friday night Mushie declared the State Of Emergency. That strongly suggests Musharaff deliberately timed his move so that he could control Bhutto's appearances to the Pakistani public. I don't expect her to be allowed free entry to Pakistan now. Either she'll be exiled again or arrested.

Third - the Chief Justice has been arrested - again - and this time Mushie has rounded up his fellow Supremes too. I speculate that they were about to rule his victory in the rigged recent Presidential election invalid.

At this point, the enablers of dictatorship in the White House either have to shit or get off the potty. They've sanctioned Burma for exactly this kind of stuff. So far, their response has been tepidly hypocritical:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday it was ``highly regrettable'' that Pakistan's president had declared a state of emergency. She urged restraint on all sides and a swift return to democracy.
Reports from Pakistan say that Mushraff has not only suspended the constitution, he has appointed a new loyalist Chief Justice and taken the TV stations off the air at gunpoint. Gunfire has been heard in Karachi.

Just yesterday, Admiral Fallon told Musharaff that it would be "difficult" for the Bush administration to convince Congress to keep giving Pakistan billions in military aid if he declared martial law! It shouldn't, of course, even be trying to convince Congress of anything of the kind.

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