Monday, November 05, 2007

Musharraf Versus The Lawyers and Islamists

As if fighting Islamists was not enough for Pervez Musharraf, his suspension of the constitution and sacking of the Pakistani Supreme Court has led to the lawyers demonstrating in large numbers against the Musharraf regime. More than 1,500 have been detained thus far.

Musharraf could barely deal with the Islamists, and now that the professional classes are taking to the streets, he's running the very real risk of alienating every last group in the country.

He's running out of people to piss off. If he does, he's toast.

Musharraf is also painting the situation as one of a fight against the Islamists, while the reality is far more muddled. He's engaged in a power grab, and comes as Benazir Bhutto reemerged on the Pakistani political scene within the past few weeks after a self-imposed exile.

The US gives billions of dollars to Pakistan, and that aid will continue to flow for now. It's an extremely dangerous situation given that the Islamists hold sway over large parts of the country, and al Qaeda and Taliban elements make parts of Pakistan home - especially the NWFP and Warizistan, which borders Afghanistan. The US is urging Musharraf to restore the constitution, but I doubt that Musharraf is going to do that until he feels that his personal situation is satisfied.

Calls for democracy might bring the Islamists into power as secular and pro-Western political groups might not have the numbers to hold off the Islamists. Putting the Islamists into a position where they have their finger on the nuclear button is scary indeed, and I wouldn't put it past the Islamists to attempt to provide terrorists - including al Qaeda - with nuclear materials for use against the West.

This is the most serious of repercussions of the situation in Pakistan right now. By engaging in this constitutional crisis and power play, Musharraf may pave the way for the Islamists to get their hands on the nuclear weapons in Pakistan's arsenal.

That's a serious situation for not only the West, but Pakistan's immediate neighbor - India.

The Pakistani rumor mill is in full bloviate. The latest: Musharraf under house arrest. The government denies this is the case.

The number detained by Musharraf is now about 3,500. Expect that number to continue to increase.

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