pakistan mosque 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency law, which entails suspending parts of the Pakistani Constitution, comes amid growing insecurity in the country.
The events leading to the decision began months ago, when Musharraf - prodded by China and the United States, as well as internal forces (predominately military) - gave the order to seize the Red Mosque in Islamabad. China, one of Pakistan's key allies, expressed concern that Chinese Islamists (Uighur) and Pakistani Islamists would target the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Thus, Beijing wanted Musharraf to stem the tide of rising Talibanization in Pakistan. In addition, Pakistani Islamists have increasingly targeted Chinese workers, and Beijing wanted the perpetrators brought to justice and the violence ended. From the American perspective, there has been a growing feeling that Musharraf has not been doing enough to deal with the Talibanization of the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Internally, Musharraf has also faced pressure from Pakistanis unhappy with his rule (lack of democracy), as well as rising Islamism, which has seen the closure of music shops, cinemas and other places considered Western.
The storming of the Red Mosque and the killing of its leader, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, and over 100 of his followers (men and women), created a backlash in the tribal belt. As a result, groups such as Tehrik Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law), as well as more established ones like al-Qaida, began a terrorist campaign directed against Musharraf and the military. Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's second-in-command, declared soon after, "This crime can only be washed by repentance or blood."
The next key moment was Musharraf's decision to suspend Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in March 2007 on spurious charges of nepotism and abuse of power. Chaudhry's decision to begin examining the behavior of the security services and possible human rights violations upset the military, as it had operated for decades without judicial supervision. The suspension led to mass street demonstrations, as well as clashes between pro-government supporters and Chaudhry supporters. Eventually, Chaudhry was reinstated, but it meant the two men and the two institutions would remain at loggerheads. This was evident most clearly with the court's decision to allow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan, after which Musharraf expelled Sharif again.
In the best-case scenario, the emergency rule will be in operation for a short time, allowing the government to deal with the Islamists and prepare the country for national elections, which are scheduled for January 2008. This would require close cooperation between Musharraf, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the military - a difficult task because Bhutto has come out against the imposition of emergency law, as well against Musharraf. She has also made many enemies within the military, especially after the Karachi attack on her homecoming convoy, when she pointed an accusing finger at rogue elements within the security services and the military.
In the worst-case scenario, Pakistan may descend into civil war, with the Islamists declaring jihad on the Musharraf government. This would be a disaster, as the Islamists have shown themselves to be ferocious fighters. Moreover, it would necessitate the continuation of emergency rule, something that the international community and leading opposition members - particularly Bhutto, Sharif and cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan - reject.
Ultimately, Musharraf must find a balance between dealing with the Islamists, moderate Pakistanis clamoring for democratization, and an increasingly impatient international community unhappy with Musharraf's governance style.