Much, too much, is afoot in Pakistan. Talk is rife of changes: in the President’s stance; in the Prime Minister’s tone; in theÂ President himself; in the international response; in the Military’s preferences; even, maybe, in the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Change seems to be afoot. It is not clear what. But it is clear that whatever it is will leave much, too much, still in limbo. There is no one that anyone seems to have much confidence in.
The media is being gagged again. Civil society forces remain defiant as ever in the face of increasing crackdowns. The politicians fail to inspire confidence. And the military and international actors remain kingmakers. The dominant sense one gets is of a country that is afraid of its own politics. Very very afraid.
The litany of breaking news tells the story (all from the homepage of The News today):
GEO News blocked in different cities of country. The transmission of Geo News has been blocked in some parts of Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Quetta, Multan, Rawlakot, Muzaffarabad, Deepalpur and Sargodha. The concerned officials have directed the cable operators to place Geo News channel at the tail end, making it difficult for the viewers to watch the channel. PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif, Tehreek-i-Insaf Chief Imran khan and Senator Babar Ghauri condemned the blocking of Geo News.
Lawyers to intensify campaign. The lawyers challenging the government will step up their cross-country protest campaign despite beatings and arrests by the police, the President of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Ali Ahmed Kurd said on Friday. Black-suited lawyers and flag-waving opposition activists launched the long march protest in the cities of Karachi and Quetta on Thursday, despite a ban on rallies and the detention of hundreds of activists. Baton-wielding police clashed with protesters in Karachi and arrested several of their leaders as they tried to stop a convoy of cars and buses leaving the city.
Containers placed around Pindi, Islamabad to block marchers. Several containers were placed at all entry points of twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in an attempt to thwart the lawyersâ€™ long march. In Rawalpindi, containers were placed near Faizabad Fly over. Besides, several containers were lined up near Kashmir Highway, Parliament House and all other entry points of the federal capital. More containers, dumpers and trucks are likely to be brought there to block the marchers from entering twin cities.
U.S. Ambassador calls on PM: U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad Anne W. Patterson called on Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani here on Friday. According to sources, countryâ€™s prevailing political situation in view of the long march was discussed in the meeting.
Miliband telephones Nawaz. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has called Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif on Friday and discussed with him the overall political situation. According to sources, countryâ€™s prevailing political situation in the wake of long march came under discussion.
Zardari agrees to resolve crisis in light of CoD. In response to the reconciliatory efforts of Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, President Asif Ali Zardari has agreed to resolve prevailing political crisis according to the charter of democracy (CoD). According to sources, Army chiefâ€™s meetings with the President and the Prime Minister are producing results. Gen. Kayani held separate meetings with President Zardari and Premier Gilani to discuss various options for solution of prevailing political crisis confronting the country. Sources further told that Prime Minster was in favour of restoration of deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. However, the presidentâ€™s close aides said that President Zardari wants his restoration through CoD. The President is willing to lift governor rule in Punjab while besides Army chief, British and American governments are playing the role of guarantors. President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are expected to meet again tonight in which some important decisions are expected.
We have been here before. Too many time. Too painfully.