As I wrote yesterday, the emergency declared by Gen. Musharraf is deeply disturbing, but not really surprising. The horrendous political situation that Gen. Musharraf described in his ‘Emergency’ speech is, in fact, true.
Extremism and violence has gone out of hand. Society is deeply divided. Religion has been high-jacked and is now routinely used to incite violence. The writ of the government is being trampled. Politicians have failed and people do seek recourse in the judiciary. People are frustrated and deeply disturbed. We have been writing and discussing all of this and more on this blog repeatedly. We cannot, therefore, deny what is obvious.
However, none of this is a justification for a suspension of the Constitution and for the declaration of emergency. In fact, all this is damning evidence of government failure. A suspension of the constitution will not and cannot resolve any of these issues. It is more likely to – and has already – made each of these situations even worse.
We had written recently that Gen. Musharraf is now operating on a ‘Karr lo jo karna hai‘ philosophy… “do whatever you will, I am here to stay and will do whatever it takes.” Right now he seems to believe that an Emergency is what “it will take.” Maybe so. Maybe it will buy him a little more time to hold on to power. But, for how long? And, at what cost?
We have also written before that Pakistan is a democratic society trapped inside an undemocratic state and that we are living through Pakistan’s moment of democratic struggle. Perversely, the events of the last days have again proved this thesis. The reason that Gen. Musharraf has to apply increasingly more draconian measures to hold on to power is precisely because society is progressively unprepared to maintain a patently undemocratic order. This is precisely why the targets of this current action are the two forces that have emerged as the most vibrant and important custodians of the nation’s democratic spirit: the judiciary and the media. With politicians, who seem far less interested in real democracy, you can always cut deals; less so, it seems, with the spirit of justice and free speech!
What will happen in the next few weeks? Probably, they will get worse. Just how much worse things might become, and how, will depend on what happens in the next few hours. Benazir Bhutto is back in Pakistan, but seems mysteriously silent; or at least cautious. Word is that she will speak to the Presidency soon. What comes out of this will be important. Whether the gag on the media will be permanent or not will also matter. And if it is lifted, how will the media ‘behave’? The street reaction today (Monday), especially of the legal fraternity will be another key indicator. As always in this beloved client state of ours, the reactions from Europe and Washington – including on aid continuation – will also have an effect. But ultimately, it is really about whether the democratic spirit of the Pakistani populace will be broken or not. I suspect – I hope – it will not.
To go back to the beginning of this post. The events of the last two days are disturbing, but not surprising. A review of some of the posts on this blog posted over the last year or so, shows why. The depiction below not only provides one blogs-view of a chronology of a political meltdown, it also highlights the various dimensions of the downward spiral that Pakistani politics has been slipping down on. Without any further commentary, let me just list a few of these posts. Follow some of these links and the comments there. Doing so have been educative to me, and begins to explain just why we are where we are.
Aug. 26, 2006: Nawab Akbar Bugti Killed.
Sep. 10, 2006: Spreading Lies.
Sep. 14, 2006: Monitoring Friday Sermons by Police.
Sep. 25, 2006: Rumors of an Internal Coup Cause Frenzy in Pakistan.
Sep 30, 2006: Who is Giving Pakistan a Bad Name?
Oct. 1, 2006: Grading Gen. Musharraf: A Performance Review.
Oct. 16, 2006: Democracy in Action?
Nov. 2, 2006: The Cost of Milk and Being a Lakh Patti.
Nov. 8, 2006: Allotment of Expensive Plots for Bureaucrats.
Nov. 16, 2006: The Politics of the Women’s Rights Bill.
Nov. 18, 2006: Will the MMA Resign? And if so, then what?
Nov. 21, 2006: Another Journalist Disappears in Pakistan.
Dec. 15, 2006: Supreme Court Blocks Hasba Bill.
Dec. 28, 2006: Brutally Shameful.
Dec. 31, 2006: Cost of Living: Inflation 2006?
Jan 5, 2007: The Politics of Politics.
Jan. 26, 2007: Insecurity: Suicide Blast at Marriott Islamabad.
Feb. 21, 2007: Mad Anger: Woman Minister Murdered.
Mar. 4, 2007: Kidney Hill, Karachi: The Battle Heats Up.
Mar. 7, 2007: PTCL Fumbles a Censorship Extravaganza.
Mar. 9, 2007: President Removes Chief Justice. Why?
Mar. 12, 2007: Shameful. Distressing. Disturbing.
Mar. 13, 2007: Law Minister Wasi Zafar Misbehaving on VOA.
Mar 15, 2007: Kamran Khan Show on Geo Banned.
Mar. 23, 2007: Celebrating the Democratic Spirit.
Apr. 7, 2007: Lal Masjid Assault on Islamabad.
Apr. 18, 2007: Sahil Bachao: The Battle for Karachi’s Waterfront.
Apr. 27, 2007: Benazir Musharraf Deal.
May 4, 2007: Jahalat: Polio Vaccine Campaign Facing Threats.
May 7, 2007: ATP at the Supreme Court Today.
May 12, 2007: Karachi Burning: Clashes, Firing, Violence, Deaths.
May 12, 2007: ATP Goes to Lal Masjid.
June 1, 2007: Military Inc. Causes Waves in Pakistan.
June 2, 2007: Electronic Media Under Siege in Pakistan.
June 4, 2007: Pakistan Cracks Down on TV News Channels.
June 7, 2007: Will there be Elections in Pakistan in 2007?
June 9, 2007: CJP Crisis: Where is Pakistan’s Prime Minister?
June 23, 2007: Lal Masjid Storm Chinese Massage Parlor.
July 3, 2007: Colateral Benefits: Judicial Assertiveness in Pakistan.
July 3, 2007: ‘Operation Silence’ Against Lal Masjid Islamabad.
July 10, 2007: The Gun Battle at Lal Masjid.
July 17, 2007: Suicide Bomber Targets Lawyers Rally.
July 20. 2007: Supreme Court Reinstates the Chief Justice.
July 27, 2007: The Battle for Lal Masjid Continues.
Aug. 8, 2007: Emergency Being Declared in Pakistan? But Why?
Aug. 23, 2007: Supreme Court: Nawaz Sharif Can Return to Pakistan.
Sep. 4, 2007: Bomb Blasts in Rawalpindi: Pakistan at War.
Sep. 14, 2007: Taliban and Extremists at War Against Pakistan.
Sep. 21, 2007: Manipulated Elections: Karr lo jo karna hai.
Sep. 26, 2007: Can we disagree without being disagreeable?
Sep. 29, 2007: Disturbing Images from Islamabad.
Oct. 6, 2007: Musharraf Gets Votes, But Loses Big Time.
Oct. 10, 2007: Emerging Shape of Pakistan Politics.
Oct. 18, 2007: More than 100 Dead… And Benazir Returns.
Oct. 19, 2007: The Midnight Attack.
Oct. 21, 2007: The Doctrine of Necessity.
Nov. 3, 2007: Emergency Declared in Pakistan.