Saturday, September 29, 2007

Musharaff's Police Attack Protesters Again

By Cernig

These are the actions of a dictator who has the support of the freedom-and-democracy-loving Bush administration.
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse lawyers protesting a new - and widely expected - legal victory Saturday for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf re-election bid.

A day after the Supreme Court dismissed several petitions challenging Musharraf's pursuit of a new five-year term, the Election Commission approved his candidacy. Saturday's ruling is expected to be challenged.

Police first tried to disperse the lawyers, then turned on journalists covering the chaotic clashes.

...Police have arrested hundreds of opposition activists over the last week and sealed off the capital Thursday, when Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and 16 other allies filed the general's nomination papers. The government defended the detentions as necessary to maintain law and order in the face of promised street protests.

The chief justice on Thursday ordered the detainees freed immediately - saying they deserved compensation - and told officials that blockading Islamabad was unacceptable.

On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed petitions filed by opposition parties and lawyers arguing that Musharraf was ineligible to run because he was still army chief.

Aziz and other officials arrived at the Election Commission Saturday morning to respond to opposition objections to Musharraf's nomination. About 200 lawyers - who had just earlier burned copies of the court ruling - tried to approach from the nearby Supreme Court building.

Chaos ensued on barricaded avenue, with security forces and protesters pelting each other with rocks. Police fired tear gas shells and beat the protesters, with one officer using a tree branch. At least two lawyers suffered bloody head injuries.

Live television coverage also showed police arresting some female supporters from Bhutto's party and shoving them into a waiting van. Three opposition legislators also were dragged away.

Running clashes continued for more than two hours. At least seven journalists were taken to hospitals after being beaten severely by police, with ARY news channel correspondent Asma Sherazi saying they were deliberately targeted. An AP reporter was beaten on the back with a baton and punched in the mouth.

Lawyers also rallied in Lahore and Karachi, where police arrested some and beat others.
Personally, I don't believe Musharaff's promise to remove his uniform after he is rubberstamped re-elected as President. After all, he already broke his promise to take it off before seeking re-election. He is cracking down on everyone who could possibly object when he breaks his promise, moving his own loyalists into key military positions and seeking continued support from those Islamist political groups that have helped prop him up in the past. These are not the actions of someone dealing in good faith.

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