Musharraf’s New Coup in Pakistan

Nov 7, 2007 | AIJAC staff

Update from AIJAC

November 7, 2007
Number 11/07 #03

As readers are probably aware, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on the weekend promulgated a State of Emergency, and began a series of moves to control and muzzle the judiciary, political opponents, and the media in Pakistan. This Update is devoted to analysis of the implications of this development for the future of Pakistan, and particularly the fight against Islamic terrorism, with the remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban based in the autonomous, rugged northwest region of Pakistan.

First up is senior Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi, who looks at the internal constitutional and political background to Musharraf’s political coup, as well as what it is likely to mean for this viability of his regime. Sethi argues that the keys to the future will be the efforts of opposition forces to protest in the face of government repression, and the attitude of former PM Benizir Bhutto’s Pakistani People’s Party, which had been discussing a power-sharing deal with Musharraf and his party. For his full analysis, CLICK HERE. Additional analysis of the political situation inside Pakistan comes from reporter Bill Roggio, and some Machiavellian advice to Musharaff is from security analyst James Robbins.

Next up, concentrating on the counter-terror implications of the latest move is security and terrorism expert Steven Schippert in an interview. He argues that the Taliban and al-Qaeda will be in a strong position to exploit the divisions and anger created by this move, but the problem for the US and West is that, despite his shortcomings, there is virtually no conceivable successor to Musharraf who is likely to be any better in counter-terror terms. He also argues that the West needs to accept that Pakistan is not going to act effectively against the increasingly dangerous al-Qaeda presence in the north. For his discussion of these dilemmas, CLICK HERE.

Finally, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Simon Henderson, who served as a media correspondent in Islamabad, discusses the problems the US and West have had with Pakistan under Musharraf. He argues that the coup must not be legitimised, but there is no choice but to continue limited counter-terror cooperation with him. For all of Henderson’s analysis, CLICK HERE. More analysis of Western policy dilemmas in the aftermath of the coup come from the Wall Street Journal, columnist Rich Lowry and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross.

Musharraf’s Second Coup


Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2007

Lahore, Pakistan

If Gen. Pervez Musharraf is trying to ensure the stability of Pakistan, he certainly has an odd way of going about it. His promulgation of a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) and a State of Emergency over the weekend have upset the delicate political transition needed by the country amid the return of Benazir Bhutto, and the planning for elections three months hence. To make matters worse, the subsequent arrests of largely peaceful moderate politicians, a purge of the judiciary and gagging of the press have alienated the very forces of moderation and democracy Pakistan needs most.

As a result, Pakistanis now find themselves living in the sort of repressive state they have not experienced since the 1980s, during the rule of the last full-fledged military dictator, Gen. Zia ul Haq. All private news channels were taken off the air on Saturday and new laws were unfurled to restrict fundamental rights, silence the media and impose punishments of up to three years for criticizing the military. In the last 72 hours, the regime has used its new powers under the provisional emergency to flush the Supreme Court and the high courts of all “hostile judges” and rope in pliant replacements.

The PCO lies at the crux of this weekend’s political turbulence. It is unconstitutional because it suspends part of the constitution without parliamentary approval. It lays the political system at Mr. Musharraf’s mercy and whim. The contents of the emergency which follows on the basis of the PCO  shed a great deal of light on why he has taken this drastic step.

In Mr. Musharraf’s telling, his prime motivation is deteriorating law and order amid acts of terrorism. He has accused the judiciary of being a major culprit in log-jamming the executive and undermining the war against extremism. Out of 11 effective clauses in the proclamation of emergency, eight refer to the negative role played by the judges and the judiciary in challenging the military’s use of force in the war against terrorism, the executive functioning of government and the economy. The most significant clauses in the PCO prohibit the courts from challenging the president, prime minister or anyone exercising authority on their behalf.

But the reality may be somewhat different from the law-and-order rhetoric. Mr. Musharraf was faced with a challenge to his recent re-election as president before the Supreme Court, turning on whether he could hold the post of president while still in uniform at the head of the army. Such a challenge is now disallowed under the PCO. And because Mr. Musharraf is also purging the judiciary of judges who will not swear to uphold the new constitutional order, he can be sure the courts won’t complain about the new restrictions on their powers. In the last 48 hours, he has sworn in a new chief justice and a few dozen other judges, and has detained the judges who have been removed.

It is also noteworthy that under the new legal regime, Mr. Musharraf can extend the term of the various parliaments for up to a year. Their terms had been scheduled to end later this month, and general elections should have followed within three months. But thanks to the declaration of emergency, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz now says that elections can be postponed. This makes perfect political sense for Mr. Musharraf. Given widespread public resentment against him, his ruling Pakistan Muslim League had been fearful of its chances at the polls and was pressing the president to postpone them.

Ms. Bhutto has described the emergency declaration as a “mini martial law” or “second coup” by Mr. Musharraf, who first acceded to power in a coup in 1999. His presidency, which was likely to be struck down by the old Supreme Court, has been confirmed and upheld by the new PCO.

Two factors will play a critical role in determining what happens next. The first is the extent to which rights activists — particularly lawyers — can continue their vocal protests despite the repression. The second will be the role played by Ms. Bhutto’s People’s Party (PPP), which lays claim to the largest vote bank in the country.

Lawyers, civil society groups and opposition parties are gearing up to launch protests across Pakistan and to boycott the courts. These groups comprise powerful anti-American religious elements, weak moderates and liberal nongovernmental organizations. The balance of power is held by the liberal People’s Party and the conservative ruling Muslim League, which consider the religious parties their natural ally. So it is profoundly troubling that with the electronic media blinded and the administration freed from accountability, Mr. Musharraf is using the police and paramilitary forces to arrest opponents, instead of clinching a power-sharing deal with Ms. Bhutto to enlarge the moderate mainstream and push back the tide of radical political Islam — which benefits from the repression of the state.

As for Ms. Bhutto and her party, the original U.S.-brokered “deal” that enabled Ms. Bhutto’s return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile last October envisaged a relatively free and early election. She was supposed to share power after the elections with Mr. Musharraf, on the assumption that a liberal civil-military coalition government would be able to better tackle the war against religious extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. That is in danger of shipwreck, now that Mr. Musharraf is inclined to postpone the elections, sideline the PPP and crush all resistance against his authoritarianism.

And because it is so unpopular, Mr. Musharraf’s latest move puts Ms. Bhutto in a particularly tough spot. She can’t afford to appear soft on Mr. Musharraf, even though the two have been preparing a power-sharing agreement. So she’s put in the position, whether she wants to or not, of mustering her own newfound popularity to put him on the mat.

A day after her arrival and the suicide bomb attack on her, she accused the government of harboring people who wanted her eliminated, and pointed the finger at a retired Interservices Intelligence (ISI) brigadier who is a close friend of Mr. Musharraf and heads the Intelligence Bureau. Now, she has rejected the PCO and emergency declaration, and demanded a national consensus government to oversee the country until the general elections can go ahead in January, as originally pledged by Mr. Musharraf.

Mr. Musharraf wants Ms. Bhutto to desist from joining hands with the opposition parties and fueling the protest movement. She wants him to hold quick elections and give her a level playing field. In a sign of how much damage the weekend’s events have done to the reconciliation process, the two reportedly have reverted to talking only via secret intermediaries, because she doesn’t want to be seen negotiating with an unpopular military dictator, while he doesn’t want his Muslim League to get nervous at further overtures to “the enemy.”

The U.S., European Union and the rest of the international community have condemned the provisional constitutional order and have demanded a restoration of full-fledged democracy via free and fair general elections. But the U.S. still sees the military under Mr. Musharraf as the best bet in the war against terror.

That may turn out to be a mistake if Mr. Musharraf insists on going it alone. His appeal is fast fading. If he doesn’t hold free elections quickly and agree to share power, Ms. Bhutto may be constrained to pull out of their earlier deal under public pressure. If that were to happen, the Musharraf regime would become more isolated and straitjacketed than ever. With an upsurge in anti-Americanism, religious radicalism and civil strife on the cards, the prospects of Pakistan solely under Mr. Musharraf would then become questionable.

Mr. Sethi is editor of the Friday Times and Daily Times in Lahore, Pakistan.


Musharraf’s Martial Law

By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | 6/11/2007

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Steve Schippert, co-founder of the Center for Threat Awareness and managing editor for ThreatsWatch.org.

FP: Why has President Musharraf instated emergency powers in Pakistan? Is this a necessary move? Is it a smart one?

Schippert: It is difficult to observe Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s imposition of a state of emergency and the suspension of the Pakistani constitution as anything other than a move of self-preservation. He did not impose a state of emergency at the tip of a military thrust into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the NorthWest Frontier Province in a concerted drive to crush the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Instead, he surrounded the Supreme Court and removed – once again – Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhry. This time, he has also cut off land line and cellular phone communications and had shut down non-state-run media outlets as well as occupied the offices of the state-run media with police.

Is it necessary? Musharraf thinks so, clearly. At issue is the unconstitutional nature of the civilian president also being in uniform, particularly as the co-terminus Army Chief of Staff. It was increasingly believed that the Supreme Court was going to rule against Musharraf and declare his October election as president null and void. He had the parliament amend the rules to instead allow the presidential election ahead of the parliamentary elections. Those parliamentary elections will undoubtedly usher in a new anti-Musharraf majority. He would have never been elected president under the traditional process. Instead, Musharraf decided to unseat the influential Chief Justice and usurp the Supreme Court.

In the short term, this will preserve Musharraf’s rule. The army remains largely – though not universally – loyal. The critical point – the potential tipping point, if you will – will be when the Army is called upon to put down mass protests. How much force will they use on their own civilian population? And this is the crux…and also why Musharraf has done what he has done to begin with.

Meaning, while the Taliban and al-Qaeda are a threat to him (they have, after all, openly made numerous attempts at assassination), they do not as yet have the ability to inspire over 100,000-strong street protests across Pakistani cities beyond the Wild West tribal regions they control. This – from the more civilized and largely Anglicized liberal areas of Pakistan – is a greater immediate threat to his rule.

Police confronted and reportedly beat with batons some who were part of what was said to be thousands of protesters led by lawyers on the streets in Lahore, home of the Supreme Court. Police also confronted and beat back protesters in other cities. But the protests are not yet epic in size. That’s still to come. And it’s the police forces, the most loyal to Musharraf, and not the Army. That is also coming.

Will the Army put down tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands at a time protesting in the streets of Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and elsewhere? It’s coming, and we will soon find out. I have serious doubts they will.

If they do not – and there is good reason to believe they will may not – Musharraf is in even deeper trouble than he is in today. He will have lost the public and the Army – many of whom are already defecting to the Taliban and al-Qaeda in a steady stream, though not much is discussed of this. Musharraf cannot last if he loses support of the army.

Long story short, had Musharraf made even a modest attempt at packaging the State of Emergency as necessary for confronting the threat of extremist Taliban and al-Qaeda elements inside Pakistan’s own borders, he could have at least a moral leg to stand on. But he hasn’t even made an attempt to veil the declaration as such. This means he alienates the Pakistani public and Washington, which would be willing to stomach much in exchange for a Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance put on the defensive and into survival mode.

Not so now, as Secretary of State Rice has said that the United States will be reviewing its Pakistani aid package in light of these developments.

FP: In what ways might al-Qaeda and the Taliban exploit Musharraf’s declared state of emergency to their advantage?

Schippert: The same way they exploited the division between the democratic liberals (in the classic sense, not in the distorted Americanized sense) and Musharraf earlier this year when the president removed Chief Justice Chaudhry from the Supreme Court: By tapping and exacerbating the two sides’ uniform displeasure or even hatred of Musharraf. The liberals want to unseat him, al-Qaeda wants to kill him – either way, they both want him gone. But that’s where the similarities end in this context.

The liberals want to gain power through democratic means in order to ensure an open democratic system going forward. The Taliban and al-Qaeda Islamists – through those that identify with them in the large six party religious political alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) – seeks to gain power through the democratic system in order to destroy the institution of democracy and replace it with Sharia rule.

This is why occasional talk now about the rise of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the leader of the MMA, as someone the West can do business with is somewhat troubling. He said in a 2003 interview, “It has never been MMA’s policy to use force to implement Islam. Islam is not a religion of coercion or extremism. The Frontier province is the most peaceful province in the country.” As he says, the MMA party doesn’t seek violence. However, it seeks to use the institution of democracy in Pakistan to remove the institution of democracy in Pakistan. Rehman, after all, has been considered by some to be the “godfather of the Taliban.”

Yet, I say ‘somewhat troubling’ because there are some intimately familiar with the MMA and its members who are convinced a majority of them have turned from the Taliban now that they are in Pakistan and not elsewhere in Afghanistan. Providing them an alternative – or considering such – is not an unhealthy exercise if so. After all, we did not turn the 1920’s Brigades insurgents in Iraq by killing them all. We found common ground and leveraged it. And now they hunt and kill al-Qaeda, not our troops.

FP: To what degree has Musharraf been a valued ally in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban?

Schippert: Simply put, Musharraf’s value has always been that he kept Pakistan as a state from aligning against us. Our hope had been that he would aggressively take on the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. But he has not, and now they may well be too strong for him and his army to dispatch. Such are the magnified later dangers granted when terrorists are given safe haven through ‘peace accords,’ namely in ceding North and South Waziristan. And now it’s “later.”

The unfortunate fact remains is that of those in position to succeed him, one way or another, he is still the most effective – or least damaging – alternative.

FP: How popular or unpopular is Musharraf at home?

Schippert: Extremely unpopular among both the liberals and the Islamists and many in between. This widespread discontent in part is why he moved to shut down communications and independent media.

However, let’s also recall that the over 40 independent, non-state-controlled media outlets in Pakistan today, every single one of them exist because of Musharraf. It wasn’t former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who allowed independent media to spring in Pakistan, and it certainly wasn’t former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. It was Musharraf. I think that must say at least something.

Again, he is unpopular on all fronts. Both the Islamists and the liberals want him out. But where they want to go from there is wildly different. And when Musharraf says he is declaring emergency powers and halting the court that would essentially unseat him with one decision in order to save Pakistan from a disintegration of sorts, it’s not like he is without a valid point.

If only he could have seen that far down the road when it came to dealing with a newly arrived Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance in 2003.

FP: What should US policy be toward the developments and toward Musharraf and Pakistan in general?

Schippert: Toward the developments, the United States must stand on the principles of democracy and insist that Musharraf end the state of emergency and retire from uniformed service and as Army and Chief of Staff. President Bush made such a statement Monday and he is correct in doing so. The ripple effect for us extends beyond Pakistan if we do not. We will be perceived as without principle and an untrustworthy ally if we do not stand actively for democracy, especially among our allies. We can ill-afford this.

This is an unfortunate circumstance to for us to be in right now. While there is much criticism to be levied against Musharraf regarding his apprehensive approach to the Taliban and al-Qaeda within his own borders, he remains the most desirable leader in that regard among the those that seek to replace him. It only gets more difficult after him.

There are more policy options than many may think with regard to Pakistan, some of which I discussed here last week. But no matter the specific combination enacted, U.S. policy must increasingly be one of action, and the American public has to come to terms with the cold hard fact that the defeat of al-Qaeda inside Pakistan will require American force. Unless there is a miraculous turn of tribal sentiment inside the tribal areas combined with a similarly miraculous newfound ambition from Pakistani leadership, Pakistan will not be that force. Our NATO allies can hardly stomach small and low intensity deployments to Afghanistan.

Yes, we are already stretched militarily. Yes, the political situation inside Pakistan is tumultuous. Yes, it will be immensely difficult and bloody. But there really isn’t much of a real alternative at the end of the day. Unlike in Iraq, inside Pakistan al-Qaeda is neither in survival mode nor on the defensive. And al-Qaeda gets stronger each day.

Many political leaders and public figures have condemned operations inside Iraq on the grounds that the “real War on Terror” is in Afghanistan. One day, they will have to earn their mettle and own those words.

FP: Steve Schippert, thank you for joining us.

Schippert: My pleasure Jamie.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine’s managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy.


Pakistan and the War on Terror

By Simon Henderson

PolicyWatch #1301
November 5, 2007

On November 3, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, putting at risk, despite claims to the contrary, the upcoming January elections. Musharraf justified his move by citing an increase in “the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks.” The action was taken despite recent pleas from U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, as well as Admiral William Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command, who visited Musharraf on November 2. Instead of political stability in Pakistan, U.S. policymakers are now confronted with a more difficult battle against al-Qaeda in neighboring Afghanistan, a perhaps less secure Pakistani nuclear weapons arsenal, and a postponed democratic revival of the world’s second most populous Muslim state.

A Second Coup

Musharraf originally came to power in 1999 after he overthrew elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had attempted to remove Musharraf from his position as chief of army staff. For the past several months, Musharraf has been struggling to preserve his power in the face of challenges from an activist Supreme Court and from Islamist forces opposed to his alliance with Washington. His latest move was apparently triggered by the Supreme Court’s intention to declare his recent reelection illegal.

Pakistan is considered an indispensable ally in the U.S. war on terror, but the relationship has had its problems. During the Cold War, when Washington was attempting to undermine the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, U.S. support for the mujahedin was channeled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, which was known to be sympathetic to Osama bin Laden and later backed the Taliban. Following the September 11 attacks, Washington turned to Musharraf for support. The day after the attacks, Secretary of State Colin Powell told him, “You are either with us or against us,” but it was not until September 19, after refusing blanket U.S. overflight rights and the use of Pakistani bases, that Musharraf went on national television to explain his new alliance.

Musharraf has risked his life because of his ties with Washington, escaping several assassination attempts. His methods of tackling the Islamist threat, however, have been unwise and untimely. For instance, Islamabad’s Red Mosque, a haven for radicals seeking to implement Islamic law, has been tolerated for months. When Musharraf finally decided to move against it this August, more than a hundred people were killed, sparking suicide attacks across the country against police and military targets. Hundreds of security personnel have died as a result, including a handful killed last week at the Rawalpindi military area near Islamabad, outside the official home of one of the country’s most senior generals.

Continuing Concern

Pakistan’s failure to address certain issues over the years continues to cause worries for Washington:

Afghanistan. U.S. and allied efforts to stabilize the regime of President Hamid Karzai in Kabul have been hampered by the ability of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters to take sanctuary across the border in Pakistan. The mountainous border region, an area where Islamabad does not exert strong influence, is neither demarcated nor recognized by the local tribesmen, and Osama bin Laden is widely thought to be hiding there. The Pakistani army has suffered many casualties in these operations and its morale is reportedly weak. The military’s ethos is to protect the state from Hindu India, and having to fight fellow Muslims is causing confusion within the ranks and officer corps.

Nuclear weapons. Prompted by an Indian test explosion, Pakistan successfully detonated two nuclear weapons in 1998. Its nuclear arsenal, begun in the mid-1980s, is thought to comprise well over a hundred warheads, deliverable by missile or aircraft. Pakistan insists these weapons are safe and secure, but it was revealed in 2004 that former nuclear chief Abdul Qadir Khan passed nuclear components to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Although details of Khan’s debriefings were passed to the United States, Britain, France, Japan, South Korea, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, doubts remain about the complicity of Pakistan’s military and political leadership.

Democracy. Since independence in 1947, Pakistan has spent most of its years under some form of military rule. Even under civilian administrations, the military and bureaucratic elites have been very powerful. Most politicians have been either weak, corrupt, or both. Nawaz Sharif, twice prime minister during the 1990s, returned from enforced exile this September but was promptly sent back to Saudi Arabia after being threatened with corruption charges. Benazir Bhutto — a twice-removed prime minister who inherited the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party from her mother and, before that, her father (himself a former prime minister who was accused of political murder by a previous military regime and hanged) — faced similar charges for years, but Musharraf recently withdrew them. Caught abroad by Musharraf’s latest move, she was permitted back into the country and remains free for now. The United States had been pressing for a political rapprochement between her and Musharraf.

Limited Options for Washington

Secretary Rice has condemned Musharraf’s actions and hinted that financial aid for Pakistan’s military will be cut. She also warned darkly that the United States “has never put all its chips on Musharraf,” although the opposite would appear to be the case. Whether or not Washington regards Bhutto as another potential powerbroker, her domestic political prospects depend on how much she has been tarnished by her recent negotiations with Musharraf. Her notion of her own popularity in Pakistan is almost certainly inflated, and her preference for large and poorly controlled political gatherings is at odds with the country’s military style.

The declaration of the state of emergency reportedly was made after twenty out of twenty-five members of Musharraf’s inner circle approved his plan. Having just promoted a new group of senior military commanders, he presumably has their immediate loyalty. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a former Citibank executive who can claim credit for the country’s recent prosperity, has also been supporting him in public. By his own autobiographical admission, however, Musharraf can be “reckless,” as his 1999 border clash and 2002 near-nuclear confrontation with India attest. Although not democratic role models, China and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s closest allies apart from the United States, should urge Musharraf to be cautious and avoid any renewed tension with India, which he could seek to initiate as a means of restoring the army’s morale and diverting adverse domestic opinion.

As for the United States, Secretary Rice, currently traveling in the Middle East, should avoid any temptation to make a detour visit, since that could legitimize Musharraf’s actions. But cooperation on counterterrorism needs to continue, if not stepped up, through lower-level official visits. President Bush’s call today for Musharraf to hold elections and relinquish his army post “as soon as possible” suggests that leaving him as president is acceptable to Washington — an opening the Pakistani leader is likely to try using to his advantage.

Simon Henderson, a Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute, has served as an Islamabad-based correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times.


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