Sunday, November 4, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Musharraf targets key opponents

Pakistani opposition leaders and activists have been detained in the wake of President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to declare emergency rule.

The acting head of the party of exiled former PM Nawaz Sharif was arrested, senior lawyers have been detained and the country’s chief justice sacked.

PM Shaukat Aziz said that hundreds of people had been held, and the emergency would last “as long as is necessary”.

Scheduled elections could be delayed for up to a year, he added.

In so doing, Musharrf asserted his role as savior of the nation, a typical hat for authoritarians to wear:

Speaking late on Saturday, Gen Musharraf defended his decision, saying he could not allow the country to “commit suicide”.

Speaking of authoritarian jargon, this fits the bill as well:

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said there had been 400 to 500 “preventative arrests” since the emergency was declared.

Much of this is cast as fighting terrorism and extremism, and while there is no doubt that that are important extremist elements in Pakistan, it is hard to ignore the simple fact that Musharraf was faced with the possibility of diminished power, either by having to resign his generalship or by being told his candidacy for the presidency was void. As such, this crackdown looks a whole lot more like a classic move by a military regime to quash the opposition and hold on to power than it does a response to an imminent attack by extremists.

Indeed, this very much looks like coups during the Cold War period wherein the military leadership used fighting communism as the justification for the crackdown.

Not surprisingly, the harder core of the rightward blogosphere is buying that justification, hook, line and sinker. The best example is via Reliapundit who writes:

A strong military rule of Pakistan is needed now and might be needed until they defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban.

His response is also vintage Cold War: anything that seems (and I use that word very specifically) to aid US foreign policy goals, is justifiable (not that the administration is reacting favorably (at least publicly), but if one sees the world as Us v. Them, then one can rationalize Musharraf as an “US” and any opposition to him as a “Them”)–including anti-democratic crackdowns and the expansion of dictatorial powers by a given general. Again, parallels to Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s are quite remarkable.

Jihad Watch seems to think that Musharraf is all that stands between Pakistan and “an era of Sharia” (reducing the whole complex discussion to an odd binary choice: Musharraf stays in power and does whatever he wants or its Shariaville). Jules Crittendon similarly casts the whole thing as being solely about the fight against extremism. Stop the ACLU likewise buys the WOT narrative, but notes that there are “reasons to be of concern.”

The real irony here is not that there aren’t real problems associated with Muslim extremism in Pakistan, there most assuredly are. Indeed, it was elements of the Pakistani intelligence apparatus that helped the Taliban establish itself in Afghanistan. And yes, there are clearly jihadist elements in Pakistan. However, the notion that a strong dictatorship will make this situation better is problematic.

At a minimum, if authoritarian rule was the elixir that cured the world of jihadism, it would have been wiped out some time ago. Or have we not noticed that this type of extremist thinking and actions was conceived, gestated and born in the context of mostly secular authoritarianism in the Middle East and Central Asia? A “strong hand” is not some automatic fix. Indeed, such strong hands often inspire further radicalism. No doubt, for example, these “preventive arrests” will inspire the opposition to greater ties and sympathies with extremists, not diminish them. In simple terms, if the opposition wishes to continue its fight, and Musharraf is shutting down existing political mechanisms to do so, what choice will they have but to deepen their connections to radicalized elements in Pakistani politics?

Musharraf full well knows that rhetoric about fighting extremists will provide him some political cover, at home and abroad. However, the idea that that is what is guiding the actions is absurd.

Indeed, the focus of these actions is basically the legitimate political opposition, not terrorists. As Bill Roggio notes:

It is unclear what effect, if any, the declaration of a state of emergency will have on the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province.

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5 Responses to “Musharraf Consolidates Power to Fight Communists Terrorists”

  1. Mark Kraft Says:


    In response to Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of martial law and illegal dismissal of a Pakistani Supreme Court Justice, I am encouraging all bloggers out there who want true democratic rule for Pakistan’s 165 million people to unite in opposition.

    From now on, I am asking bloggers to consistantly refer to Musharraf as “Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf” consistantly linking back to a post I made explaining this idea in greater detail.

    The post allows threaded comments, so that those opposed to Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf can start discussing ways that we can organize and unite in opposition to his dictatorial actions.

    My hope is that a consistant message of opposition to martial law and support for democracy in Pakistan can help to influence the media away from legitimizing the Musharraf regime by referring to him as a President. By definition, he cannot be a President if he refuses the right for his government’s Supreme Court to decide whether his running for office is legal or not.

    Please drop by the post, leave a comment as to what ideas you have on how we can best unite in opposition to martial law, and please do consider using the phrase “Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf”, linking back to the post.

    Mark Kraft

  2. Political Mavens » More on the Coup in Pakistan Says:

    [...] Musharraf’s Consolidates Power to Fight Communists Terrorists [...]

  3. Barry Says:

    “Not surprisingly, the harder core of the rightward blogosphere is buying that justification, hook, line and sinker. The best example is via Reliapundit who writes:”

    I just wish that there was some way that I could make money off of these guys’ credulity. I’d have a really, really, really big house.

  4. tobias welsh Says:

    Whatchoice does the goverment have.We need to play both sides of the fence when it comes Pakistan. We must stand by an hope that Muslim Terroists don’t take that country over. We will then be begging for Mushraff back. These are the times when we must trust God and pray for good to win over evil.

  5. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    These are the times when we must trust God and pray for good to win over evil.

    That’s not much of a foreign policy, I fear–especially when that wasn’t exactly how we got to where we are now…

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