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Pakistan Punditry: Why Musharraf May Arrest Benazir Bhutto

On November 3, 2007, General President Musharraf of Pakistan, imposed emergency rule in Pakistan (the text of the declaration is here), citing a need to curb terrorism and restricting activist judges. Musharraf's decision came a few days before Pakistan's Supreme … Read More

By / November 8, 2007

On November 3, 2007, General President Musharraf of Pakistan, imposed emergency rule in Pakistan (the text of the declaration is here), citing a need to curb terrorism and restricting activist judges. Musharraf's decision came a few days before Pakistan's Supreme Court was set to rule on a series of cases that would have challenged his legitimacy to hold the post of president and chief of military simultaneously. The Provisional Constitutional Order (text) that followed the emergency declaration, put Pakistan's 1973 constitution into abeyance, and suspended all fundamental rights:

With the Islamic provisions of the Constitution to remain in force, the fundamental rights as enshrined in Article 9 (security of person), 10 (safeguard as to arrest and detention), 15 (freedom of movement, etc.), 16 (freedom of assembly), 17 (freedom of association), 19 (freedom of speech, etc.) and 25 (equality of citizens) shall remain suspended.

The suspension of fundamental rights are already been problematic with four men convicted of treason for making anti-government speeches. Pakistan's private TV stations were all blacked out and sale of satellite dishes was halted. Hundreds of lawyers and activists around the country were detained or put under house arrest, and the most recent estimate is that around 2500 people are in jail.

My newly established website PakistanPolitics.net is covering this whole thing and I have a reasonable amount of connection with Pakistan's legal community. I strongly urge everyone to bookmark it as I often put stuff there that later ends up in my columns.

The Cabal has been covering the events to an extent as well, with background posts here, here, here, and here. Also, if you are going to be in New York on Thursday you can check out the event that Asia Society is putting on in the morning (it is also available online). Finally, if you are a lawyer (not from NYC) you can be of some help to Pakistani lawyers.

Right now I simply want to take a moment to speculate — rather than reveal or investigate — about one possible turn that the Pakistani political scene may take. I mean, specifically, the position of populist former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

I am beginning to wonder how long it will be before Musharraf will detain her and put her in house arrest. This is an important thing to inquire about because at the moment she is the only one of the political leaders in the country that is roaming free.

Bhutto returned to Pakistan under a power-sharing deal brokered by the US and UK. She was supposed to be the civilian face of Musharraf's rule, a necessary counter-weight for him after he had lost a lot of legitimacy when he tried to sack the Supreme Court Chief Justice back in May (background for that is in this Huff Po).

Recently I had taken to calling their dual arrangement "General Mubhutto" and had been looking at it with a fair degree of negativity, expecting her to act as spinelessly as before and remain allied with Musharraf despite his egregious act of "mini martial law."

Initially, Bhutto was staying mum about he situation, casting platitudes, with her spokeswoman stalling as much as possible. When Bhutto was asked questions directly she evaded. Then, she made her way from the southern city of Karachi to the garrison city of Rawalpindi, on her way to meet Musharraf in Islamabad. In this time, many members of her own party and others in the Pakistani middle class, were quite upset with her for not taking a stance. Imran Khan, the former cricketer turned politician (who released an awesome Musharraf-slamming youtube video from a secret location (its in English) basically called Bhutto out for her complicity with Musharraf in an interview with a newspaper.

Then Bhutto got to Islamabad, got a chance to lay down her terms (and I have no idea what they are), and since that moment, has not been the same. She vowed to fight Musharraf and Ilyas Khan at BBC sets forth her two pronged strategy.

Now, previously the only reason Musharraf did not put her under house arrest — as he did with the main Islamist or Welfare party leaders — was because she was not going to put Musharraf's emergency rule into danger. However, now, that she is calling for street protests and taking the fight to Musharraf, there is no reason for him to extend the same courtesy to her. On November 9th she is set to address a gathering in Rawalpindi. The administrator of the city has already told her that there is a "strong chance" there could be a suicide bombing (just reflect on that for a minute you Musharraf supporters).

I am thinking that unless Musharraf has some reason to let her roam around that I do not understand, he is going to put her in detention as well. Let's wait and see.

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