Pakistani opposition leaders and activists have been detained in the wake of President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to declare emergency rule.The
acting head of the party of exiled former PM Nawaz Sharif was arrested, senior lawyers have been detained and the country’s chief justice sacked.PM Shaukat Aziz said that hundreds of people had been held, and the emergency would last “as long as is necessary”.Scheduled elections could be delayed for up to a year, he added.But no decision had been made over the date of any election, he added, insisting the government remained committed to the democratic process.
Apparently, lessons are never learned. Just like General Zia ul-Haq before him, Musharraf pays a lot of lip service to democracy while riding his military coat tails to a permanent dictatorship. Just like General Zia-ul-Haq before him, the world thinks that he’s the last bastion standing between Pakistan and an Islamic fundamentalist state. Just like Zia-ul-Haq before him, he pretends to hold elections, then subverts the results because of “emergency conditions” and “extenuating circumstances”.
It is rather sad and depressing, Zia ul-Haq was the first Pakistan “president” I knew, always ratcheting up war rhetoric against India. The Benazir Bhutto-Nawaz Sharif years seemed more like a soap opera between two rich and influential feuding Punjabi families than the brutal power struggle that continues to this day. And now, General Musharraf, who is depicted in Western media as the last man standing between the Taliban and Pakistan.
The point? Pakistan, with its independent press, well-established middle class, a quasi-independent judiciary and politically intelligent electorate deserves better. I am not sure that Musharraf would survive without the propping up he receives from the US. But the rug needs to be pulled from under him. Behind that sophisticated veneer (imagine, a third world leader who speaks English and can wear a suit!!!) lurks just another power hungry tinpot dictator.