President Musharraf declares emergency rule in Pakistan

What is he afraid of?

Questions:

1. What do you think is a main reason behind Pervez Musharraf’s decision to declare the emergency rule? Is it the declared rise of extremism or perhaps the real explanation is that the president was afraid of the Court’s decision about the recent election? Or is it something very different?

2. What kind of role do you think can play Benazir Bhutto in this crisis? And what about Pakistan’s western allies?

3. How do you see the future of Musharraf’s rule? Do you think he can gain balance again or is his rule doomed already?

Answers:

James Revill, Researcher at the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

1. Musharraf has claimed this is in response to terrorism and extremism in the country and there are clear problems with extremism in Pakistan but this is not a recent phenomenon and the question would be why now? Why not, for example after the red mosque incident. As this move came only 12 days before Musharraf’s presidency was due to expire and at a time when the Judiciary was likely to challenge the extension of his rule, the primary cause is much more likely to be the challenge from the Supreme Court.

It is also notable in this context that the judiciary have been hit by emergency rule, particularly Provisional Constitution Order No 1 of 2007 which Removes the offending judges before they are able to effectively delegitimise Musharrafs leadership position, it states: 4) All persons who immediately before the commencement of this Order were in office as judges of the Supreme Court, the Federal Shariat Court or a High Court, shall be governed by and be subject to the Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007, and such further Orders as the President may pass.

2. This is a difficult situation for Bhutto and the West, particularly as Musharraf has (duplicitously in my view) emphasised terrorism as the cause of the emergency rule. For the US and UK Pakistan’s role in the war on terrorism has been too important to allow heavy criticism of Musharraf and notably the US appears unwilling to terminate security orientated funding –which makes up the bulk of the US financial support for Musharraf with only an estimated 9% going to the people of Pakistan as development contributions.

With regards to Bhutto I think she is limited in what she can do, particularly as fellow political parties are being rounded up and taken away. However Bhutto has contacts in the west which could help to pressurise Musharraf but again the above problem mitigates such overt criticism of Musharraf.

3. I think the increasingly ruthless nature by which Musharraf is clinging to power and the limitations of Western criticism mean that he can cling to power but with little or no popular support. What little space there have been for alternative discourse in Pakistan will increasingly be lost and there is a very real danger that this could create a vacuum to be filled by more extreme voices with very real implications for the future stability of Pakistan.

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