No comment on Saturday’s bloodbath (at Karachi) would be complete without a look at the larger picture. That very day, President Pervez Musharraf addressed a massive gathering in Islamabad organized by the PML... (T)hanks to the TV channels, the entire country knew about Karachi’s trauma, but the rally organizers continued with what appeared to be a celebration—which the President called a demonstration of the people’s power. Gen. Musharraf used similar words to describe the MQM rally in Karachi. Was it a manifestation of the people’s power ...bodies...lying on Karachi’s roads with no one to pick them up?... The nation has the right to know why the police and the fabled paramilitary rangers disappeared, who barricaded key traffic junctions and was manning some of the roadblocks with weapons in hand, what party or organizations the killers belonged to, and whether the Sindh government did all that it did... on instructions from Islamabad to frustrate Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s programme in Karachi. (Dawn)
After Karachi carnage
The Karachi killings are likely to have long-term impact on the party’s image in the country... The celebrations at PML’s Islamabad rally while pictures of dead bodies lying on roadside were... on TV... and a jubilant President declaring no opponent (could) resist the party’s onward march have put at stake his neutrality. (M)any think the rally which gave the impression of a victory march should have been called off as a sign of mourning. What Lt Gen. (retd) Moinuddin Haider said in a newspaper interview indicates how some of Musharraf’s former colleagues look at the situation. According to Haider, most problems emanate from the President’s partiality. Expressing concern at the way the security agencies acted as passive spectators during the bloodshed, he (thinks) this indicates a highly dangerous collusion between the state agencies and the political administration... Musharraf needs to take measures that confirm his impartiality as the head of state. (Else) few would expect the... elections to be fair and free. ( The Nation)
A dangerous ambiguity
The crisis sparked by President Pervez Musharraf’s dismissal of the head of the Pakistan Supreme Court has reached boiling point... (I)t is widely believed that the real reason for (the) dismissal was (his) desire to have a more obedient figure... in case of a constitutional challenge to his position. (T)his (is not) a simple case of a military establishment suppressing a democratic opposition. Some... opposition parties in Pakistan subscribe to a... totalitarian strain of Islam. (S)everal... are given control of religious colleges, madrassas, in return for not taking on the regime directly. This dangerous ambiguity can also be detected in the Pakistani government’s attitude to Islamist terrorism. There have been repeated accusations from the Afghan government that the Pakistani secret service supports the Taliban... And yet the Bush administration regards Musharraf as a key ally in the campaign to thwart religious extremists... No matter how useful he may be to the West, if he continues in this vein, (he) risks being swept away... (The Independent)
Musharraf’s moment of truth
Gen. Musharraf’s determination to be re-elected President while staying on as head of the army has led him into a political blind alley. His abuse of Pakistan’s already battered Constitution and his suspension of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the popular Supreme Court chief justice who might have stood in his way in the courts, have provoked a popular backlash. Pakistan’s political parties, which have mostly been discredited by their own misrule in previous civilian governments, have predictably tried to take advantage of the Chaudhry phenomenon...
...The US and other western powers have provided strong backing for Gen. Musharraf and his government. His public support for the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan (albeit tainted by suspicions that Pakistani intelligence officers still sympathize with the Islamist militants) and his record of sound economic management made it easier to overlook the embarrassing reality of a military dictatorship. Gen. Musharraf is now in danger of forfeiting that western support... (Financial Times)