Musharraf’s Pathetic Attempt to Cling to Power, Independent Media Suffers

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This Saturday General Pervez Musharraf decided it was time to just sock it to anyone who stood in his way of holding onto power. He imposed an “emergency rule”—effectively martial law—suspending the Constitution and sacking the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after the judges refused to abide by the order and declared it illegal. Over 600 lawyers, activists, and opponents were detained. As police assaulted lawyers and other protesters with tear gas and batons, thousands were arrested, including 1,200 lawyers in the second largest Pakistani city, Lahore. On Sunday, over 70 activists and 14 journalists were arrested at a meeting held by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in order to discuss the current state. HRCP Chairwoman Asma Jehangir was placed under house arrest.

Musharraf claims that this was a move to save Pakistan from extremism, but some point out that he had been informed by an aide that the Supreme Court might declare his October 6 “re-election” illegal. Furthermore, the fact that the parliamentary elections, scheduled for January, have also been put off can be seen as a maneuver to stall elections. And the proclamation the general issued is a “charge sheet” against the judicial branch as he accuses the judiciary of “working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature” and argues that its “constant” and “increasing interference” with the executive branch is undermining the “war on terrorism.” His use of “terrorism” as reason for imposing martial law is, to put it bluntly, bullshit.

Along with the judiciary, the media bears the brunt in this recent clampdown for its critical coverage. For the third day in a row, independent news channels have been blacked out in Pakistan, as well as access to several websites. Aaj TV had its offices raided, similar to how GEO TV earned a visit from the police in a previous crackdown of the Pakistani media in June. A new press ordinance has also been issued to further silence the media. The strictures prohibit any material which “ridicules” or “brings disrepute to the Head of the State” and armed forces and proves to be a threat to the “ideology of Pakistan.”

—Neha Inamdar

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