Local dailies predict dark days ahead for Pakistan

November 14th, 2007 - 8:26 am ICT by admin  
In its editorial, The News said that the “imposition of emergency rule and suspension of the 1973 Constitution on Saturday is only going to destroy the very institutions that this country crucially needs for evolving into a true democracy, particularly the judiciary, media and parliament.”

It also warned of a further fracture of an already weakened federation, and added that such a draconian step would not facilitate the campaign against terrorism and extremism.

“It would be fair to assume that the emergency has been imposed only to target two institutions: the judiciary and the media but it may well have poisonous effects on another: i.e. parliament,” the paper’s editorial warned.

It also said that the fact that the official statement carrying the emergency announcement used ‘army chief’ rather than president to refer to the authority behind the promulgation, was significant in that it was indicative “of a de facto martial law — one in which the assemblies will function but only to give the impression that democracy has not been hampered in any manner.”

The editorial says that very few people in Pakistan, or overseas for that matter, would buy the argument that it has been imposed to arrest the deteriorating law and order situation and to allow the government to focus on fighting extremism and militancy.

As for the media, it said that the fact that private television channels were blacked out for the better part of Saturday, was a grim indication of the government’s intentions. The ban would essentially be counter-productive and be seen by ordinary Pakistanis as a desperate act of a regime bent on shielding itself from criticism.

The Dawn went with the stark headline of “Another move towards absolutism”, reflecting the virtual helplessness of the media in the face of a government onslaught on press freedom.

“SO we are back to square one. Back to Oct 12, 1999. All the gains over the years have gone down the drain. All this talk about the forward thrust towards democracy, about the impending ‘third phase’ of the political process and the lip service to the sanctity of judiciary turned out to be one great deception. The people have been cheated. In a nutshell, one-man rule has been reinforced, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel - a tunnel that is dark and winding with an end that is perhaps blocked,” the front-page editorial of the paper lamented.

It described Saturday’s emergency declaration as General Musharraf’s second coup, in which his rule is now absolute, and civil society and democracy have received blows from which they may not recover.

The editorial sought know what more powers Musharraf needed when he already had the military and the paramilitary forces at his beck and call to tackle extremists and tribal insurgents in the volatile tribal areas of Pakistan.

Like The News, the Dawn also was emphatic in saying that Musharraf had declared the emergency as he had doubts about the outcome of the Supreme Court’s judgment on his right to contest the October 6 presidential election.

The Daily Times came up with a 10-point news analysis of the development, and described the PCO as nothing but an extra-constitutional step to certify and cement General Musharraf’s authority.

It, however, interestingly said that President-General Musharraf would eventually comply with the US, EU and the international community demand for a restoration of full-fledged democracy via free and fair general elections “in due course”. It also said that the regime should prepare itself to face a host of writ petitions which the apex court would not hesitate to hear, but would be most reluctant to rule on.

As far as Benazir Bhutto was concerned, the Daily Times editorial said: “The government will expect her not to destabilise its modus operandi in exchange for a power sharing deal. She (Bhutto) may lend only token PPP support to the protest movement”.

The Nation in its editorial said: “It is obvious that the General had enough of what can be considered as meddlesome Supreme Court. The decision came at a time when he was awaiting a Supreme Court verdict on the petitions challenging his candidature for presidency. The move however did not come as a surprise especially after Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz declined to discard outright the speculations regarding extra-constitutional measures being discussed by the ruling coalition ahead of the SC verdict.”

It further went on to say that General Musharraf “may have to do a lot of explaining on all these issues. But he has sent the country into a tailspin just to save his job as president by a process which the apex court was widely believed to declare ultra vires.”

It charged the government with having lost its focus on crucial issues, and warned that it should not ignore the serious consequences of this extra-constitutional measure.

The government needed to be aware that any measures that are likely to lead to the postponement of the elections, suspension of fundamental rights or emasculation of the courts would be strongly resisted by the opposition. (ANI)

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