Wednesday, November 07, 2007

From the Pakistan Underground

Musharraf's 'emergency rule', supposedly a response to "extremism" is in part an effort to crackdown on the dissidence that has gripped the country this year. The declaration appears to have been deliberately made in such a way as to circumvent the constitution, since Musharraf proclaimed the 'emergency' in his capacity of Army Chief, not as president. By setting aside constitutional restrictions, the army gives itself more scope for repression. The Left has been driven underground already and protesters rounded up and beaten. They have already tried less formal modes of repression, arresting the opposition leaders, many of whom died in prison. Perhaps because of the swift response of protesters, we haven't had the same enthusiastic response among liberal pundits that greeted Musharraf's initial coup. But I fear opposition to Musharraf this time is likely to be channelled into support for the opportunistic Benazir Bhutto, who I suspect could easily win a fair election in Pakistan despite the attempts on her life. The US government has pursued an interesting angle in response to this, hoping to parlay the current dissent - a result of the neoliberal and pro-Washington policies pursued by the regime - into a coalition between Bhutto and Musharraf, both of whom will continue much the same policies. I suspect that this idea is more dead in the water than a Barrymore party guest. However, Washington's fears about the future of this geopolitically vital, yet combustible, area are unlikely to be allayed by a prolonged crackdown by Musharraf, which could explain why his subordinates are wooing the Western press with promises of full elections and an end to 'emergency rule' within weeks.

At any rate, the Pakistan Labour Party has issued a global petition opposing emergency rule, which I invite you to sign.