Musharraf’s bid to cling to power would back fire badly: Analysts

November 14th, 2007 - 8:27 am ICT by admin  
Musharraf, who led a military coup in 1999, imposed a state of emergency in nuclear-armed Pakistan on Saturday in response to what he said was a hostile judiciary and the growing menace of al-Qaeda and pro-Taliban militants.

But analysts said Musharraf’s main concern was to purge the Supreme Court of anti-government judges ahead of a ruling on the legality of his victory in a controversial October 6 presidential election.

Far from enhancing his fight against Islamists, who have regrouped in Pakistan’s tribal belt to plot attacks on the West, emergency rule will strengthen their cause and increase the likelihood of attacks, they added.

“Musharraf is riding a rudderless ship in a big and unpredictable political storm,” Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at Lahore’s University of Management Sciences, said.

“He may survive for a while but he will be swept away by the tide of anger, popular resentment and forces that wish to restore some degree of decency and normalcy to Pakistan,” he said.

In the wake of the emergency declaration, Musharraf’s security forces rounded up several key opposition leaders and lawyers and sealed off much of the capital to prevent protests.

He has also imposed tough curbs on the media, barring all criticism of himself and the government.

Analysts said that the situation was closer to martial law than an emergency, with the suspension of many fundamental rights, and added that the opposition would not tolerate such a situation for long.

“It is a second coup by Musharraf. We are heading for a very uncertain time because this coup will be challenged by political parties,” Hasan Askari, former head of Political Science at the Punjab University, said.

The key figures will be former premier Benazir Bhutto, and fundamentalist opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who have criticised the president’s actions.

“This martial law will stay in place until either this parliament or the next parliament by a two-thirds majority indemnifies it. That is where the role of Bhutto and Fazlur Rehman becomes critical,” Najam Sethi, editor of an English daily said.

The forces of Islamic militancy will also hit back against Musharraf, stepping up a wave of attacks that has killed more than 400 people since a government raid on the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad in July, Rais said.

“This move will impact the fight against militancy and terrorism. If you suppress popular democracy you only create opportunities for militancy and armed struggle,” he said.

But analysts said the biggest danger is from within — the military that backed Musharraf’s original coup and has supported him for the past eight years in his US-backed campaign against the militants.

The 500,000-strong army has been demoralised not only by a series of attacks on security forces and abductions by militants, but also by bearing the brunt of popular dissatisfaction with Musharraf’s regime.

“This (emergency) will build strain between him and the military,” Askari said. “The image of the military as a national institution is likely to be sullied. This is the gravest hit on the image of the military,” added Rais.

But in the immediate future Musharraf will use his emergency powers to ruthlessly cement his grip on power, analysts said. “We are going to witness a reign of oppression,” The News quoted Rais, as saying. (ANI)

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