Friday, November 09, 2007

Flashpoint In Pakistan

The situation in Pakistan is at a flashpoint as police have intervened and attempted to stop Benazir Bhutto's supporters from rallying and have barricaded Bhutto in her home in Islamabad. I'd call it house arrest. I'd also call it Musharraf's desperate gambit, and while he tries to call the emergency rule a way to crack down against the Islamists, going after Bhutto and her supporters gives lie to that stated purpose. Has he gone too far this time? I'd say so, and the consequences could be dire. Bhutto might not be an ideal candidate, and can count on the Islamists among her supporters, but Musharraf is using an iron fist at a time when such use might shatter what remaining power he has left.

The violence spawned in the aftermath of Bhutto's house arrest is likely to spread to other parts of the country.

The continued turmoil in Pakistan raises the specter of what could happen to Pakistan's significant nuclear arsenal. Just how secure is it, and what would happen if the Islamists manage to overthrow Musharraf?

While Musharraf is busy cracking down against Bhutto and her supporters, the more significant problem for Musharraf is that the Taliban are doing quite well against the Pakistani military. The Taliban have continue to make gains in the NWFP and Warizistan, despite Musharraf's crackdown.
On November 6, the Taliban overran police stations in and around the town of Matta in Swat. "About two dozen police officers and several troops offered no resistance to militants who seized three police stations and a military post," the Associated Press reported.

The police and soldiers abandoned their posts and handed over their weapons to the Taliban. The Taliban fighter in Matta raised the white Taliban standard over the police stations and military outpost.

"We didn't harm the police and soldiers and allowed them to go to their homes as they didn't fight our mujahideen," said Sirajuddin, a spokesman for Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, a radical Taliban cleric leading the fight against government forces. Fazlullah has called for government forces to withdraw, the imposition of sharia law, and charges dismissed against his followers.
The Taliban have been supporting the Islamists, including al Qaeda, and the vacillation between crackdown and appeasement have made Warizistan and the NWFP fertile ground and safe haven for al Qaeda - allowing a resurgence of both groups, much to the detriment of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The house arrest order against Bhutto has been lifted.

This is an interesting interview of Bhutto by Greta van Sustren. In it, Bhutto comments on the effect this crisis is having on the Islamists. It's interesting, especially in light of the fact that Bhutto isn't shying away from cozying up with the Islamists herself.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Lawhawk forwarded an email from the NYS Bar Association about their response to the suspension of the rule of law in the country and the assault on the legal institutions in Pakistan. The relevant parts:
Our Association has not been silent in the face of this challenge to the Rule of Law in Pakistan. Last Saturday, November 3rd, at a time when our policy making body, our House of Delegates, was engaging in a spirited debate on a number of issues, including ethics and professionalism, demonstrating the vital role we play as a free and independent bar association, we learned of the arrest of the President of the Pakistan Bar Council. Immediately after learning of this disturbing development, our House of Delegates adopted a unanimous resolution expressing our solidarity with the lawyers of Pakistan and calling for the prompt restoration of the Rule of Law. This resolution has been communicated to the President of the Pakistani Bar Council, as well as our representatives in Congress to urge that Congress take all appropriate measures to assist in the restoration of the Rule of Law and to secure the release of judges and lawyers who have been detained. We have been joined by our colleagues in the American Bar Association, as well as other local and regional bar associations, in condemning the attacks on the Pakistani legal community. In addition, I have been privileged to conduct a number of media interviews in response to our Press Release earlier this week, in an effort to solicit broader support across the state. You can review that Press Release, as well as the House of Delegates Resolution, by clicking on the link below:

On Tuesday, November 13, there will be a rally at the New York County Courthouse at 60 Centre Street, New York City, at 1:00 p.m. to urge the restoration of the Rule of Law and the release of detained judges and lawyers. The son of the President of the Pakistani Bar Council will be present. Together with our colleagues at the New York City Bar Association and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, I hope that you can join us as we speak with one voice on behalf of our profession.

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