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Will Musharraf declare emergency in Pakistan?
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | July 03, 2007 23:31 IST
The political turmoil in Pakistan took a serious turn on Tuesday outside Lal Masjid in Islamabad, reminding people of the Indian sub-continent of Operation Bluestar, which took place in the Golden Temple, Amritsar [Images], Punjab, in 1984.
"One should observe closely whether a situation is created that can prompt President Pervez Musharraf [Images] to declare emergency in Pakistan, delaying the election for a year or so," said G Parthasarathi, former high commissioner of India in Pakistan.
In the clashes between security forces and militant students outside Lal Masjid, more than 9 people have been killed and around 100 women have been injured and hospitalised.
The situation is so serious that it's possible that Pakistan's Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah may be forced to leave India and return home before schedule.
Hamid Mir, senior journalist and popular anchor of Geo TV told rediff.com from Islamabad, "People of Pakistan do not approve of such violence. We are fed up with both sides. This is a fight between Rangers' jawans and the militants of Lal Masjid."
Tuesday's violent clashes unfolded a day after the severe snub the Pakistan Supreme Court gave to the Musharraf establishment.
On Monday, the Supreme Court angrily reprimanded government lawyers for presenting a "scandalous" dossier of evidence against suspended chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. The court not only fined the government Rs 100,000, but also suspended the advocate on record who filed the evidence.
The furious court told intelligence agencies to stop bugging the judges' telephones and asked them to "sweep" the judges' offices and homes.
Chaudhry is leading the movement for justice against Musharraf's decision to suspend him. He has become the centre of political opposition to Musharraf.
Chaudhry has, so far, not compromised; rather he has shown the tenacity to take the movement to the next stage.
Mir, who also contributes to rediff.com, said, "The stand-off between the masjid and Rangers is being used to divert the attention from all those serious issues which are being raised against the government in the Supreme Court and in the streets."
Talking about Musharraf's position in these turbulent times, Mir sarcastically said, "Today's development shows that the most popular man in India is in serious trouble in Pakistan."
Parthasarathi believes that Musharraf deployed Rangers to scare militants inside the masjid.
"But, we believe that the militants are well-armed. The Rangers don't have matching military capability. The event will lead to further uncertainty and will accelerate Talibaisation of certain areas of Pakistan," Mir added.
B Raman, Chennai-based Pakistan expert said, "The success with which suspended chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and the students of the two madrassas attached to the Lal Masjid have defied Musharraf without his being able to act against them is having a ripple effect."
Tuesday's event shows that important sections of Pakistani society and administration are less afraid of Musharraf and his word carries less authority.
"One has been seeing this in the deliberations of the Supreme Court on the petition filed by Chaudhry. The judges are more and more critical of the regime. Nothing is more damaging to the image of a dictator than the perception that the people are less and less afraid of him," Raman added.
Islamabad is so tense that Mir, who has been targeted by Musharraf's establishment, has moved out with his family to Chicago.
However, Mir claims confidently, "Musharraf will have to shed his uniform and give up the post of chief of army staff by November, 2007. Musharraf is being backed by the US. He has the guns and tanks and the army with him. The army is still with him and he has moved in his loyal people in all important posts, but his politics is weak. He is failing in people's politics."
Raman gives additional insight into the possible options of Musharraf. "Till now, I was certain that Musharraf, with American support, will weather the opposition and continue in power. I am not that certain of it now. I have a feeling that the ground is slowly slipping from under his feet. He may still survive with US support, but without his halo. If he continues in power, he will shed his uniform by appointing another officer as the chief of army staff, but without totally shedding the powers which he exercised as the COAS," Raman said.
Raman added that one of the options before Musharraf is to transfer all powers relating to the day-to-day running of the army such as promotions, postings, transfers and all ceremonial duties to the new COAS, but Musharraf may want to keep with himself chairmanship of the National Security Council, all powers relating to strategic matters such as Pakistan's nuclear and missile arsenal, counter-terrorism etc.
"He will still make the final decision in matters related to nuclear and missile arsenal and counter-terrorism. That is what the Americans will also want," added Raman.
The unfolding events of Pakistan will also have an impact on the Indo-Pak peace process and also on the dynamics of Jammu & Kashmir politics.
A S Dulat, former chief of Research & Aanalysis Wing and ace Kashmir expert, believes, "My assessment is that Musharraf will survive in some form with help of Benazir Bhutto, some current allies and with the external support of the US, but the peace process is and will remain passive. It is impacting Kashmir."
Dulat wants the United Progressive Alliance government to keep talking to leaders of J&K.
"Why can't the Indian government initiate dialogue inside India? What's the problem in a two-way channel between Srinagar [Images] and New Delhi? Dikkat kya hai? (What's the problem?)" he asked.
Raman warns that the J&K situation is changing slowly. "I see that Talibanisation is creeping in J&K. Al Qaeda's [Images] pan-Islamic ideas and anti-Americanism have started making an impact on the minds of Indian Muslims in J&K as well as outside."