Turmoil in Pakistan: By Pritam K. Rohila, Ph.D.


Pakistan today stands on the brink of anarchy. Government security forces seem to be helpless against the resurgent Taliban and extremist elements in Waziristan and parts of the Northwest Frontier.
Suicide attacks have spread even to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Their number has increased from about four a year in the preceding five years to 44 so far this year. Militant violence has claimed about 2,500 lives in the current year.
The grip of the army on political, civil and economic life continues to become tighter, while the living conditions of people, especially in rural areas goes on spiraling downward.
After eight years of three-steps-back for each progressive-looking-pronouncement, President Musharraf has staged a coup against himself. He has declared Emergency, suspended the Constitution, fired Supreme Court justices, blackmailed some justices into submitting to his agenda, gagged the media, and arrested a large number of opponents.
These political maneuvers to cling to power have pushed the country further toward the edge. And to add insult to injury, on November 10, President Musharraf amended the Pakistan Army Act 1952 to empower the army to arrest, investigate and try civilians in military courts.
The situation has attracted widespread condemnation. In spite of the heavy crackdown there have been protests throughout Pakistan. Marches and demonstrations have been organized in many foreign countries as well.
Foreign governments as well as many international organizations including the United Nations have expressed their displeasure. The Commonwealth has given a 10-day deadline to Pakistan to restore its constitution and lift other emergency measures or face suspension from the 53-nation grouping.
International investors withdrew as much as 20 percent of their equity investments from Karachi Stock Exchange in just first four trading days after the declaration of Emergency. Also the Moody’s and the Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services have downgraded Pakistan’s credit worthiness.
Even Cassidy & Associates, a lobbying firm which had won a $1.2 million annual contract from the Pakistan government only last month, on November 7, declared, “Recent developments in Pakistan have made it difficult to effectively fulfill our mission on behalf of the Embassy of Pakistan. These dramatic changes have forced us to most respectfully withdraw our representation of the embassy effective today.”
It is remarkable that all this has happened when peace reigns on the country’s eastern borders and authorities on the other side are reluctant even to criticize their Pakistani counterparts.
Let us hope and pray that good sense will prevail upon President Musharraf and he abrogates the Emergency, releases all those arrested in its wake, restores the Supreme Court, reinstates the judges and other officials who refused to submit to the new dispensation, end curbs on the media, and returns the country to civilian rule. Until then, those who aspire for peace and progress in South Asia will have to work harder to help safeguard the future of Pakistan.

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