Pakistan: Democracy in crisis
Political opposition denounces emergency proclamation
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: On November 3, 2007, General Pervez Musharraf, who also serves as the president of Pakistan, declared a state of emergency. Musharraf cited the need to fight extremism and terrorism, and also denounced the judiciary. The main roads and major cities, premises of TV and radio stations, the Supreme Court buildings, and other places of strategic significance were swiftly occupied by police and paramilitary forces. The chief justice was dismissed and placed under house arrest. The office of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission was raided, while the prominent human rights activist Asma Jahangir was placed under house arrest. Ms. Jahangir was interviewed in our studios only two weeks before martial law was declared. Five hundred or more other prominent citizens are said to have been arrested in a countrywide sweep. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has denounced the proclamation.
BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PM (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We condemn and protest against martial law, and the people of Pakistan will not accept martial law…
NKWETA: In an editorial of November 4 entitled “Another Move toward Absolutism,” Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper, described the move as Musharraf’s second coup. The Dawn editorial said,
“We state emphatically what has forced General Musharraf to declare emergency are the doubts about the outcome of the Supreme Court’s judgment on his right to contest the presidential election.”—Dawn, November 4, 2007
disputing Musharraf’s contention that the emergency was declared to fight terrorism. The emergency law may strengthen Musharraf’s rule or, as his opponents say, end it. Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and also placed under house arrest, had this to say:
AITZAZ AHSAN, PRESIDENT SUPREME COURT BAR ASSOCIATION (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Now is the time for us to get rid of Musharraf. Musharraf has ordered me to be put under house arrest for 30 days but he himself will be finished within 30 days. The countdown has started.