Pakistan: Musharraf suspends constitution, declares state of emergency


musharraf.jpg

President - General Pervez Musharraf.

After a day of rumors that President Pervez Musharraf would impose a state of emergency and multiple denials by cabinet officials, Musharraf has pulled the trigger and suspended the Pakistani Constitution. A state of emergency is now in effect and Musharraf has created Provisional Constitutional Order to replace the existing constitution. Pakistani Rangers, a paramilitary police force, has deployed in the capital of Islamabad and surrounded the Supreme Court building.

Pakistani media outlet Dawn calls the suspension of the constitution and the imposition of emergency rule "General Musharraf's Second Coup." On its website, Dawn reports the Supreme Court has deemed the move "'illegal and unconstitutional' and asked the corps commanders and all civil and military officials not to take oath under the new Provisional Constitutional Order."

"Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who condemned the moves, has reportedly been sacked and is being confined to the Supreme Court with 10 other judges," the BBC reported. Musharraf attempted to remove Chaudhry during the spring of 2007. The move against Chaudhry failed and resulted in a political backlash which has worsened the political crisis in Pakistan.

The suspension of the constitution comes just days before Pakistan's Supreme Court was to rule on the constitutionality of Musharraf's recent presidential reelection victory. It is believed the high court would have ruled against Musharraf.

CNN reported Musharraf has imposed martial law (military rule). The New York Times reported "a list had been prepared of prominent Pakistani journalists and opposition politicians who would be detained."

Cable media outlets have been shut down and telephone links are being severed. At this time the websites of the major Pakistani media outlets are still functional.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan in October and recently left the country to visit family, immediately boarded a plane and is said to have returned to Karachi. Bhutto was targeted by a sophisticated al Qaeda ambush within 24 hours of her return in October. Bhutto placed the blame for the attack on Hamza bin Laden, the son of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Hamza is believed to have entered North Waziristan recently.

It is unclear what effect, if any, the declaration of a state of emergency will have on the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Associated Press of Pakistan, the official government news outlet, stated both "terrorist attacks and judiciary's interference led to imposition" of the state of emergency.

"The two page proclamation that came into force at once states that banning of some militant groups took terrorist activities to an unprecedented level of "violent intensity" posing a grave threat to the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan," the Associated Press of Pakistan news release stated. "The order says that emergency has been imposed in the wake of suicide bombings, explosions of Improvised Explosive Devices, rocket firing and bomb explosions, besides a spate of attacks on State infrastructure and on law enforcement agencies."

The Pakistani military has been demoralized by the fighting and troops are surrendering or being captured and beheaded by the dozens. The Taliban has fought the military to a standstill in North Waziristan and Swat, and the government continues to seek negotiations.

Bhutto was critical of Musharraf's handling of the situation in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province just days ago. "Not only are our tribal areas out of our control, but even the beautiful valley of Swat is now under takeover by Islamists," she said in an interview. "Internal security has totally collapsed in Pakistan" and it could not have happened "without there being some blind eye if not collusion being turned to the rise of the militants and militancy."


Dawn's report, "General Musharraf's Second Coup," from its website:

President General Pervez Musharraf, in his capacity as the chief of army staff, on Saturday declared emergency rule in the country, suspended the country's constitution, and issued a new Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO).

The official announcement on the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) came within minutes of a high-level meeting at the President House (Aiwan-i-Sadr) which was chaired by the President and attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, senior security and intelligence officials.

Shortly before the official announcement all the private and independent news channels in the country were pulled off the cable network, leading to intense speculations of a possible emergency rule or martial law.

This is the second time in General Musharraf's tenure that an emergency rule has been imposed, and PCO issued. First it was at the time when the military seized power on October 12, 1999. This time it was when President Musharraf had already ruled the country for eight long years, and was faced with a situation where there was a strong possibility that the Supreme Court may rule against his move to get himself elected for the second time as the head of the state.

According to some details of the new PCO made available to the media, the National Assembly, Senate, provincial assemblies, the prime minister, provincial chief ministers, federal and provincial ministers, governors and all those in the government services will continue to function normally.

However, it was not clear how this will be possible, or be legitimate, with President Musharraf resorting to the extra-constitutional action of suspending the constitution and issuing his own provisional constitutional order or PCO.

Soon after the proclamation of emergency by Gen Musharraf, an eight-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, reportedly set aside the decision. Setting aside General Musharraf's proclamation of emergency, the panel asked all members of the superior judiciary against taking oath under the new PCO.

The Supreme Court, in its order, termed Gen Musharraf's action "illegal and unconstitutional" and asked the corps commanders and all civil and military officials not to take oath under the PCO. Till filing of this report, the judges of the SC were still inside the court building.

However, under the circumstances chances of a major rebellion on part of the superior judiciary appeared highly unlikely. In any case, legal experts said, the government must have contemplated such a resistance, and as has been the past practice during military rule, some of the judges will not be invited to take oath, some will refuse, and a few will accept the new order to provide legitimacy to the this kind of emergency rule. In a latest development Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar was sworn in as a Chief Justice of Pakistan by the President.

There were also reports that some of the lawyers, including the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, have been taken into custody. Mr. Ahsan's wife told reporters that her husband was arrested soon after the imposition of emergency.

Although news of a possible emergency rule had been doing rounds for the past several days, on Saturday it became quite evident when a large contingent of paramilitary troops started to arrive in Islamabad, and cable operators were asked to pull the plug on all independent news channels, including DawnNews, Geo, ARY and Aaj TV.

Land telephone lines and mobile phones are also partially down in Islamabad and communication has become almost impossible in many parts of the capital. TV channels and newspapers had been reporting for the past few days that the government had made up its mind to declare emergency rule.




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READER COMMENTS: "Pakistan: Musharraf suspends constitution, declares state of emergency"

Posted by willy at November 3, 2007 1:24 PM ET:

Well I think this is long overdue. If this is the required route to deal with this problem, so be it.

We told him there were rats in his kitchen.
He kept leaving food out on the counter.
Now he's gotta call the exterminator instead of laying a few traps early on...

Posted by ds at November 3, 2007 2:18 PM ET:

Why is it that Musharraf can take a step as radical as imposing martial law and suspending the Pakistani constitution, but it is impossible for him to ask for direct U.S. air support to deal with the Taliban / Al Qaeda elements that have taken over the Northwest Province?

Would calling in U.S. air support really be that "de-stabilizing"? It seems like Pakistan ain't too stable right now, anyway.

Am I way off base here? If so, I plead ignorance.

Posted by GK at November 3, 2007 2:31 PM ET:

Because the majority of Pakistanis are sympathetic to Al-Qaeda, and are certainly very anti-US.

Sure, they don't want to join up per se, but they tacitly cheer when Al-Qaeda scores one on the US.

Posted by JT Day at November 3, 2007 3:25 PM ET:

This event leads to really ominous possibilities: I Musharraf loses control and a full blown civil war ensues, the safety of Iraq's nuclear weapons is in doubt.
This will bring the US into the mix since we cannot afford to have the nukes fall into the hands of the islamists.

We would either have to mount an operation to seize them or destroy them by other means. For the US to fail to do one or the other would be catastrophic.

Posted by Winger at November 3, 2007 3:42 PM ET:

We know the militants don't like him and the Islamists side with the militants. Wouldn't this alienate the rest of the country now so everyone is against Musharaff except small portions of the Army?

Posted by Trophy Wench at November 3, 2007 9:05 PM ET:

To me this sounds like just one more step towards forming a somewhat autonomous state of Warziristan by the militants and islamists. That scenario might not be as bad as one might think though, due to the fact that this pseudo-state might essentally segregate most of the anti-govenment islamists from the rest of the realitvely dissaluisioned pakistani public, but even I would call that farfetched.

Realistically though, I feel that unless the government collapses outright and all hell breaks loose in Islamabad then and only then would the west (and probably India too) worry about their nuclear aresenal and it would be my hope that Musharraf and even Bhutto if she were to return to power would have the foresight to do something about it. Then again, that scenario might also be a little presumptuous.

Posted by Winger at November 3, 2007 10:00 PM ET:

Afghanistan was the previous Islamic State of Waziristan. We saw the results of that kind of a State.

We can not alow the Taliban to just move to another area and continue the same reckless behavior that lead to 9/11. Of course, some people think America started it and 9/11 was just the freedom fighter response to the Imperialist US.

Posted by Neo at November 3, 2007 10:56 PM ET:

I think there is a general sense that this will lead to the overthrow of Musharraf at some point. His hold on power is certainly very brittle at this point. Letting the supreme court rule against him would eventually have a similar outcome. What will destroy him in the end is the ambivalence that the Punjab military establishment feels about him.

Even worse is the fact that a lot of bad political problems are coming home to roost all at the same time. The worst thing that can happen in a democracy is for political factions to become so hostile toward each other that they have no respect for the other sides legitimacy. In Pakistan this factional infighting has been going on for many decades with endless intimidation, political coups, endless pseudo-legal maneuvers, arresting the other side, exiling or eliminating opposition leaders, and endless plotting and maneuvering. Unfortunately, so much of this has gone on that there is no consensus to rule in Pakistan anymore by anyone. No party or person can rule without the opposition calling questioning it's legitimacy.

I think out of this there will be a strong temptation for the Punjab military establishment to appoint a General Zia type figure, who is pro-Islamic in hopes of regaining control of the situation. The problem will be that the political situation is much different than two decades ago. The militant Islamists won't be satisfied with merely pro-Islamic reforms and opposition won't want yet another military regime. I'm afraid the militants will inject themselves directly into this and insist that Pakistan become the spearhead of their political movement. I think they will stir up an avalanche of demands and act to govern on their own in the name of true Islam. Throw a bunch of hot headed Young Turks from the middle ranks into this mess and you may have the makings of a militant Pakistani government.

The question at the end is does it devolve into a genocidal mess that devours itself or could someone harness the whole mess and play Napoleon. I don't know the answer to that, but the chances of third parties taking significant casualties is quite high by the time all is said and done.

Sorry for that long-winded bit of optimism.

Posted by anand at November 4, 2007 12:43 AM ET:

What is happening in Pakistan hasn't happened since the 1999 Coup that put Pres Musharaf into power. The situation far more serious than almost anyone in this country seems to realize-excluding Neo and Bill of course.

The constitution and supreme court is suspended. Press freedoms have been restricted more than any time since the 1980s. Note that Pakistan is a modern, mobile phone, wireless and wire-line broadband connected country. Many of the largest global multinationals, including a lot of America's most successful technology companies have significant operations in Pakistan.

No one has ever attempted to do what President Musharraf is attempting to do in a digitally wired country. It don't understand how this succeeds.

There is a real danger that Pakistani civil society is destabilized with very uncertain consequences. Pakistan's growing and increasingly confident middle class will not look at the infringement of their liberties lightly.

The Pakistani army seams to be on the verge of breakdown, civil strife, even civil war. A lot of the Taliban/AQ linked militants are led by very talented retired Pakistani army officers and NCOs-who remain very well connected with the active ranks.

Today, far more violent deaths are taking place in Pakistan than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The Indian establishment appears to be concerned about a Pakistani collapse or implosion. Neither India, Russia, or we Americans can afford to let Pakistani nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands. Many Chechens are now fighting the Pakistani army in Pakistan (and NATO/ANA in Afghanistan). They would love to use a nuclear device against Russia if given the chance.

Pakistan has become the biggest crisis in the world today. Much more dangerous, important and urgent in Iraq. (Thank God and General Petraeus that Iraq has partially stabilized.) And our country and the rest of the world appears to be asleep at the switch.

Everyone here knows my proposed solution. We offer Pakistan a $200 billion aid program over a decade to transform Pakistan into a prosperous free democracy in return for very difficult reforms.

Half paid for by us Americans. The rest paid for by India, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Europe and the rest of the world

Pakistan can choose difficult transformative reforms and $200 billion, or the destruction of their country. Their choice. They decide. I pray they decide the right way. God save them if they don't.

Bill Roggio, DJ, CJR, Neo, Winger, GK, SD2, everyone else; how do you propose that we handle the current crisis. This is much bigger than Afghanistan.

Posted by Neo at November 4, 2007 2:02 AM ET:

"Everyone here knows my proposed solution. We offer Pakistan a $200 billion aid program over a decade to transform Pakistan into a prosperous free democracy in return for very difficult reforms."

This time it's not about money or economics, I am afraid. You can throw a few billion around and get a little influence here and there and maybe buy yourself a few extra months.

I don't think anyone has any clear answers to Pakistan right now. Interfering gets you an exaggerated reaction, so unless you have a counter for that reaction it's best not to go there in the first place. The presence of our troops in Afghanistan obviously antagonizes the Pakistani Pashto population but removing the troops would hand the Taliban victory and encourage them toward further goals. I hate to say it but pick your poison. I'd rather keep our military in place in Afghanistan and make things as tough as possible for the Taliban.
We do need to buy time too though. Not just to reposition ourselves, but time for the Pakistani's to discover for themselves that this isn't their granddads form of Islam. This is violent rejectionism within a religious wrapper, reminiscent of Pol Pot's agrarian utopia, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, or the Jonestown communal Kool-Aid.
On a similar, but lighter note, we can all be thankful that our own 20th century social revolutionaries were pacifist, more or less. As annoying as I find pacifists, I much prefer them to the violent extremists. I think more revolutionary types should consider pacifism, that and find things to keep them distracted.

Posted by Winger at November 4, 2007 3:40 AM ET:

As I think about those complicated issues, I want to simplify for clarity. As one poster mentioned on Bills log, disputes must be settled with the ballot box and not the Kalishnikov. This part of the world had Ghandi. We need another leader like that. People who use guns to settle disputes must be eliminated. The government must send the message that people with guns will not be tolerated.

In the short run, that may mean getting tough by using the military. The rationale must be clearly delineated to the people. Radical Islam teaching must also be curtailed. These people do not recognize any authority but Allah. The government must assert itself now. The details are more difficult to put together but the central premise will remain the same.

Posted by captainjohann at November 4, 2007 4:43 AM ET:

The FIRST THING Musharaff did was to go after the CJI and not the Taliban or Alqueada!!!He was the main ENEMY and not the Taliban to Musharaff and i find almost all the people who have commented have missed this point. Musharaff and his supporters in Saudi arabia are the OIC and also Alqueada is the Sword arm of this OIC who cannot western presence in socalled holy lands. They just HATE everybody else AND THAT INCLUDES DEMOCRACY!!!!. Bill and aothers seem to think a person with beard is dangerous and not Musharaff because he is clean shaven. Gen Hamid Gul is the person who leads the Alqueada in pakistan.

Posted by LDGarrett at November 4, 2007 6:50 AM ET:

If Hamid Gul is indeed the linchpin organizing Islamist anti-government efforts, we shall know soon enough. At least one news report (The AP, via FOXNews) says Gul and Chaundry were both arrested today.

Posted by Neo at November 4, 2007 8:54 AM ET:

Yes, I do think Hamid Gul is a player in this. Many among the military elite have played the Islamist card at various times, including Musharaff. The problem these generals have is they think they can turn the Islamist movement on and off to suit their needs. I think the movement that Hamid Gul has helped create has grown powerful far beyond his ability to control. Eventually, I do think the Generals will be instrumental in bringing Musharaff down. I also believe they have already opened up a flood of Islamist extremism that they will find difficult to control. The question is, who is pushing and who is being pushed?

Posted by TS Alfabet at November 4, 2007 12:22 PM ET:

Neo is spot on. We may have to allow things to get much worse in P-stan before it can even possibly get better. Just as the Sunnis in Anbar had to get their fill of AQI atrocities before they would turn to the U.S. as partners, so too will the P-stan population at large have to get their fill of Taliban and AQ horrors before we can offer any alternatives.

In the meantime, we don't have to sit idly by. First, we need to further our contacts with any P-stani generals who might be willing to deliver keys to the nukes to us for a hefty payment in the event that the security of those nukes is ever in doubt. Second, we should further any secret alliances we can with generals who would be willing to take our support if the country does, in fact, descend into full-blown civil war. U.S. support might allow some such faction to hold onto a part of the country, similar to A-stan's Northern Alliance, while the rest of the country wears itself out with civil war. When P-stan has had its fill of the Taliban/AQ, we can help the generals to re-take the rest of the country. This could be a long, long-term undertaking.

And this should absolutely serve as a cautionary tale for why Iran must absolutely never be allowed to get nukes.

Posted by sarah at November 4, 2007 4:45 PM ET:

Have we forgotten that Pak is actually in a state of WAR, declared by our country. It has been desperately trying to keep the AQ's at bay; and trying to find them, while patiently WAITING for US to come and HELP.
However, meanwhile, we have trillion $ debt, and are bogged in a country which has now been preped for AQs. Pak saw with horror as Afghan AQs became stronger, and slowly converted the disgruntled Talis into AQs.
With pressure from us to democratize (some instant formula during war time?) Musharraf was slowly weaning army off(talk about multitasking), but not only did the AQs and their new buds in tribal areas; but the free (but unwise) media; and educated idiots from abroad, starting tearing at the openings he had offered.

Of course, it is understandable, the AQ is hungry for nukes, and the PAks for democracy no wonder they rushed in for the fill, destabilizing PAK.
Thank God stayed the course;but a country that has not even learnt how to be democratic, let alone get it right under war conditions----- AQ must be delirious with stupidity of the immaturity of Pak Courts, media and political parties.
Cancer of AQ has started spreading, and Mush had to act. He went after judiciary first, because I have never seen such an unjudicious bunch of judges in my life! they have undue influence at this critical juncture, and are using it unwisely unlike our Supreme Court.
Look at Mush's personality, and track record of wanting to work with even those who wanted to kill him. He is America's best General during this WAR. Pakis had their chance and blew it, now they should wait till stability is back.
Even our country has violated the Constitution and civil rights, under our declared WAR, despite the best systems of control, detection and administration.
Democracy will happen, nukes will go, Iran will be brought to senses, Afghanistan will be purged-----only if we learn to TIME our demands, DIRECT our actions and resources wisely.

Lets get the job done! A democratic Pak with a strong military will soon party with the rest of the world.

Posted by Neo at November 4, 2007 9:20 PM ET:

Where's Time, Newsweek, and US News when you need them. We really do need a good primer for the average citizen like Sarah here so that they can get some good basic information on what is happening. It's been a long time since I have seen a good cover-to-cover treatment on an important subject. A suggested cover might be "Crisis in Pakistan" with a series of short articles designed to bring the reader up to speed on what is going on in Pakistan, it's history, the political players and factions, and some cultural information thrown in along with it. Do they even do that sort of thing anymore.

Maybe it's just too much to ask, but maybe some of the major news outlets might take a break from Brittany's latest personal crises and all the obligatory self-flagellation rituals over the mess in Iraq long enough to cover this story. And enough with the fake news stories hyping events that haven't happened yet and aren't going to happen. The United States isn't going to invade Iran. It's not any closer to doing so than last year, or the year before that, the year before that, and the year before that, etc, etc. So you can stop all the hyperventilating already. Let the political parties do their own damn PR for a change too. The news outlets don't need to be giving free spin for either political party. There's enough hard news coming out of Pakistan right now clutter the pages of the NYT for the next six months at least. Everyone is ramping up coverage now, but what took so long. Anyone else here think the lack of news coverage on this subject has been absolutely scandalous. Oh I forgot, Time, Newsweek, and US News have evolved into cheesy news portals to compete for clicks with the likes of Google news and Yahoo news. Hooray!