Exclusive: Pakistan Imposes Martial Law - What Has Gone Wrong?
By Adrian Morgan
Late on Saturday, November 2 (local time), President Musharraf of Pakistan announced a state of emergency, suspended the constitution, and imposed martial law. The situation is causing alarm amongst his supporters in the United States and in Britain. The situation happening now means that the election which was due to take place in January 2008 is unlikely to happen.
There are genuine reasons to be concerned. At best, hopes for a transition to a superficial level of democracy are threatened. At worse, a nation with nuclear arms potentially going into political meltdown could lead to some unthinkable scenarios. Much now depends on public reactions over the next few days. If there is a reaction of strong protest on the streets, the army may counter-react and chaos could ensue.
Already some of Musharraf's political opponents are placed under house arrest. Early on Sunday, Benazir Bhutto, the nearest thing Musharraf had to a political colleague in the upcoming elections, was claiming on BBC TV News that she is in her house and the army is outside. She did not know if she is under house arrest. A few hours later she claimed that the soldiers had gone.
Pakistan has been in a state of civil turmoil since January, when Islamists in the capital, Islamabad, reacted to plans to demolish illegally constructed mosques by barricading themselves in a children's library and threatening to launch suicide attacks if disturbed.
In Northwest-Frontier Province (NWFP), adjoining the border with Afghanistan, Al Qaeda leaders, accompanied by their supporters from Uzbekistan and other nations, have been in hiding since the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan in November 2001. Since March 2006, the Pakistan Taliban has had almost complete control of North and South Waziristan. On March 27, 2006 the first death sentence was carried out by a Taliban sharia court in Wana, South Waziristan.
70,000 Pakistani troops have been posted in the seven "Federally Administered Tribal Areas" of NWFP since 2002, but over the last month there has been massive upheaval in Swat, one of these regions. Two police stations were taken over last week by the Pakistan Taliban, and there have been reports of many soldiers surrendering to the Taliban in this region.
Pakistan has been gradually teetering towards a national crisis for some time. On October 30 last year, when Musharraf's troops bombed a madrassa in Bajaur, one of the "Federally Administered Tribal Areas" in NWFP. 80 people died, and local politicians blamed the U.S. for the attack, a claim denied by the army and government. Members of the six-party opposition known as the MMA (Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal or "United Front") already have control of the regional Assembly in NWFP. They have 65 members in the National Assembly, and have frequently called for revolution against Musharraf. The Bajaur bombing led the MMA to promise retribution, which followed days later with a suicide attack upon an army barracks in Malakand district on November 9, 2006.
In April members of Pakistan's shady intelligence agency, ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence, were believed to be behind the developing crisis at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, where Islamists were threatening to make war on Musharraf's government if sharia law was not imposed. At that time, members of this mosque were burning bookstores containing Western CDs and DVDs, and kidnapping individuals. Similar actions were simultaneously being carried out in NWFP.
In March, Musharraf had sacked Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry, and lawyers and members of the Islamist opposition parties rioted in protest. Eventually, Musharraf was forced to reinstate the Chief Justice in July. Shortly before Musharraf imposed martial law at the weekend, he had once again sacked Iftikar Mohammed Chaudhry and replaced him with one of his stooges.
On July 3, after months of indecision, Musharraf ordered that the army should mount an attack against the insurgents in the Red Mosque. A full attack brought the mosque insurgency to an end a week later, costing at least 100 lives. Since that time, insurgents in NWFP have taken on the activities of the leaders of the Red Mosque.
The mosque officially reopened on July 27, an event accompanied by a suicide bombing which killed 14 people and led it to be closed again. More suicide attacks followed across Pakistan, killing at least four hundred people. On October 2 the Supreme Court ruled that the mosque be reopened. At the end of September, Osama bin Laden stated that there would be "retaliation" for the storming of the Red Mosque.
On July 15, the pro-Taliban tribal leaders of Waziristan declared that they had decided to abandon the peace accord which had been brokered on September 5, 2006. Though widely regarded as ineffective against Al Qaeda members sheltering in the region, the accord had created a shaky peace for 10 months. Violence erupted in this region.
At the time, U.S. intelligence maintained that Al Qaeda had managed to regroup and consolidate its forces. It was in a position as strong as it had been in 2001. John Kringen of the CIA testified to the House Armed Services Committee on July 12 that "They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan. We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising."
By late July, Musharraf was hinting at talks of sharing power with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who at that time was living in exile, facing potential corruption charges should she return. Eventually a deal called a "reconciliation ordinance" was made on October 5 which allowed Ms Bhutto, head of the Pakistan People's Party, to have charges of corruption waived.
On September 10, 2007, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived back in Pakistan from London. He had been in exile since 2000, after he was deposed in a coup led by Musharraf in 1999. This coup took place when Sharif had tried to sack Musharraf as army chief on October 12, 1999.
Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz party (PML N) was in Pakistan for barely a few hours before he was issued with an arrest warrant for corruption and promptly deported. Saudi Arabia issued a visa and Sharif was flown to Jeddah. According to Sharif's brother, the deportation happened in defiance of an order from the Supreme Court. This order, issued in August, had given permission for Nawaz Sharif to return from exile.
On September 28, the Supreme Court gave permission for Musharraf to stage an election for the presidency of Pakistan on October 6. Previously, it had been argued that Musharraf could not stand for president again while he still had the position of head of the army. Musharraf wanted to extend his eight year presidency but had refused to resign from his position as army chief. At the start of September, Musharraf had claimed that he would resign as chief of the army after November 15. By this date, the National Assembly is also due to cease functioning, to prepare for January's elections.
On October 2, Musharraf named his would-be successor to the post of head of the army. This individual is Lieutenant-General Ashfaq Kiyani, who is head of the ISI. He was to become deputy army chief of staff on October 8, assuming full control of the army on November 15 when Musharraf is due to resign as army chief and become sworn in as president.
The presidential election took place on October 6, and Musharraf won the vote. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the result could not be officially declared until a legal challenge to Musharraf's candidacy had been settled. This challenge had been mounted by Wajihuddin Ahmed, a rival presidential candidate. Some of Musharraf's officials hinted at this time that if the challenge against his extended presidency was upheld, the president would impose martial law. Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan's Daily Times, warned: "Musharraf has let it be known that he will resort to a swift and surgical strike if anyone puts up a roadblock. Whether it be for 10 days or three months, he will put the judges away."
On October 9, massive fighting was taking place near the Afghan border between the military and militants in North Waziristan. The army said 200 Islamist fighters had been killed along with 47 troops. 10,000 villagers had fled their homes to take refuge in towns.
On October 12 the Supreme Court hinted that an amnesty issued the previous week could be illegal. This amnesty would have meant that any politician in power from 1986 to 1989 would have been exempt from any charges of corruption. Iftikar Mohammed Chaudhry, the Chief Justice said that any politician "would not be entitled to claim any protection" if the ruling was in contravention of the constitution.
Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari still face corruption allegations in Poland, Switzerland, Spain and Britain. On April 15, 1999 the couple were convicted in absentia in Pakistan and sentenced to five years' jail for corruption. They had received illegal payments from inspection contracts to Swiss firms SGS and Cotecna. Ms Bhutto's case was, until the military takeover, being reviewed in Pakistan, but she is now facing the threat of being charged with "aggravated money-laundering".
Bhutto's Return and the Descent into Disorder
On Thursday October 18, Benazir Bhutto arrived back in Pakistan from her eight-year exile. A rally was held in Karachi. Thousands of her supporters had traveled from Sindh, her native province, to welcome her back. She said upon her arrival: "The big thing is I'm back home and I’m glad that General Musharraf's regime has not interrupted my welcome. While there has been some small progress, there is a lot more yet that needs to be done."
There had been warnings of potential suicide attacks, and she had been advised to return later. She boarded a converted truck to stage a rally, which moved at a slow pace through the crowds. Police mounted a protective operation with more than 20,000 officers and troops patrolling the route of the vehicle, and bomb squads and sniffer dogs on standby. As the vehicle moved at a slow pace towards a shrine where she was due to give a speech, a grenade went off, and then a suicide bomber struck. 139 people were killed in the suicide attack, and hundreds were injured.
Bhutto blamed followers of the former dictator, General Zia ul-Haq for the attacks. This individual, who had hanged her father Ali Bhutto in April, 1979, ruled Pakistan with Islamist support from 1977 to 1988. He introduced Islamist laws on blasphemy and adultery, and worshipped at the Red Mosque. Bhutto said: "I know exactly who wants to kill me. They are dignitaries of General Zia's former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism." She does not name these individuals that she accuses but she is thought to be politically most opposed to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Pervaiz Elahi and the current religious affairs minister (who is Zia ul Haq's son).
While the political situation in Islamabad became strained, Islamists in Swat district in NWFP became more militant, under the leadership of a rebel cleric, Maulana Fazlullah. In January this year, this imam used FM radio to sabotage W.H.O. plans to vaccinate local children against polio. He claimed the vaccination policy was "a conspiracy of the Jews and Christians to stunt the population growth of Muslims." As a result of his pressure, 4,000 children were not vaccinated in Swat. In August in Khar in neighboring Bajaur agency, 11 polio health workers were kidnapped and their equipment smashed, effectively ending the vaccination campaign.
On September 21, Fazlullah declared war on the government again, after a four month official "truce". With 4,500 armed volunteers at his disposal, he set up his own government in the Swat Valley in mid-October. In July, after his militants had attacked police following the Red Mosque raid, extra troops were sent to the region. In October, as more troops were sent to the Swat Valley, Fazlullah used radio broadcasts to say soldiers were there to kill innocent villagers.
On Friday October 26, four military men were publicly executed by Islamists in a village in Swat. The four men were brought to the village with their hands tied. They were pushed onto the road, and their heads were cut off. One of the Islamists said before the killings: "Let this serve as a warning to all those who spy for the government or help the government. All sons of Bush will meet similar fate." While the military and militants fought, the National Assembly of NWFP tried to implement sharia law in the areas of Malakand and Swat.
On the same day, the government's religious affairs minister Ejaz ul Haq (son of the former Islamist general and dictator) threatened to lodge a police charge against Benazir Bhutto if she attacked any madrassas. He may have said this because in 1994-1995, an army operation forcibly seized madrassas owned by the father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah.
When General Zia ul Haq came to power there were only 1,000 madrassas. By the time he had died there were 8,000 registered madrassas, and 25,000 unregistered. Currently there are 13,000 registered madrassas and far more that are unregistered. The Islamists have flourished in Pakistan because madrassas have been used as a substitute for real education. Poor families send their children to such establishments because they are free and food is provided to students.
Many of these madrassas are Saudi-funded. In November last year, Britain offered Pakistan a donor package of $910 million. The majority of this fund is not to be spent on basic education such as literacy and numeracy, but on madrassas where literacy and numeracy rarely feature on the curriculum. Six million children in Pakistan do not attend school.
Ejaz ul Haq, who said in June that suicide bombings could be justified, claimed that Bhutto had said that she would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to have access to Abdul Qadeer Khan. A. Q. Khan illicitly developed Pakistan's nuclear bomb program, but was publicly forgiven by Musharraf in Fenruary 2004. He has received treatment for prostate cancer, and is regarded as a hero by Pakistan's Islamists. The religious affairs minister also claimed that Benazir Bhutto had said she would allow the U.S. to pursue Al Qaeda in the mountainous border regions of NWFP.
After numerous militants had been killed in Swat by the Pakistan army, a temporary ceasefire was requested. Militants in the region beheaded 14 people, including army members and civilians on October 28. On Monday October 29, Maulana Fazlullah announced on his FM radio station: "The ceasefire was reached to facilitate wounded persons' treatment. Later on we will hold negotiations with the government on establishing Sharia." The truce collapsed on Wednesday October 31, and fighting resumed.
On October 30 a suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint at Rawalpindi, less than half a mile from where Musharraf was having a meeting with senior officials. Eight people died. The blast was condemned by the U.S. State Department, which pledged to continue assisting Pakistan against the threat of terrorism. Musharraf said on the same day that if terrorism was not stamped out, national integrity would be placed in jeopardy.
On the same day, Pakistan's senior judge Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry announced that the country's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, had broken the law when he had deported Nawaz Sharif. Chaudhry adjourned the hearing on the matter to November 8.
On Thursday, November 1, seven Pakistan Air Force officers were killed by a suicide attack.
On Friday November 2, Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State, said that America opposed any attempts by Musharraf to impose martial law and urged him to continue with the planned elections in January 2008. She said: "I am not going to get into the details of our conversations but I think it would be quite obvious that the US would not be supportive of extra-constitutional means."
By this time, there were general fears that the crisis would lead to a dramatic solution. Meanwhile the situation in Swat deteriorated. On Friday, 48 captured soldiers were put on display to the media by militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah. The soldiers were said to have surrendered during fierce fighting during the week. The soldiers were released later in the day. At Khawazakhela in Swat, officers fled from the local police station as militants took control. Another police station was burned, and Matta police station was abandoned to the militants (pictured). Maulana Fazlullah said that he would engage in talks only if sharia law was imposed, that security forces left the Swat Valley, and that charges against his followers would be dropped.
Admiral William J. Fallon from U.S. Central Command offered the use of U.S. forces to Musharraf on Friday, to deal with the insurgency in Swat and other troubled regions of NWFP. Admiral Fallon was in Pakistan on a meeting that had been planned weeks before. He also visited the new deputy chief of staff of the army, Ashfaq Kayani, as well as Pakistan's Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. He commended Musharraf's determination to combat terrorism, but his offer of troop assistance was not taken up.
Benazir Bhutto had left to go to Dubai on personal business. On Friday she said that Pervez Musharraf would not impose a state of emergency, despite encouragements of those whom she described as "political orphans". She claimed: "All the political parties will unite to oppose emergency if Gen Musharraf imposes it." She said that she had been threatened by extremists, and claimed: "Some groups are backing extremists with income derived from drugs."
Imposition of Martial Law
Musharraf made his public announcement about the imposition of martial law late on Saturday night on television. He said: "The extremism has even spread to Islamabad, and the extremists are taking the writ of the government in their own hands, and even worse they are imposing their obsolete ideas on moderates."
Perhaps as a sweetener to his American allies who have, since 2001, donated an estimated $10 billion in aid to support Pakistan, Musharraf alluded in his television speech to a letter made by Abraham Lincoln. Musharraf maintained that though Lincoln had sworn to uphold the constitution, he claimed he first had to preserve the nation.
Whether Musharraf is really acting to preserve the nation or merely trying to consolidate his personal position of power is a moot point. The general's real motives will be revealed as events unfold over the next few days and weeks.
Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan as soon as news came of Musarraf's putsch. She said: "We condemn this martial law. We will protest it." She said outside her home: "The country is going to dictatorship once again. It is an uncertain situation, and the Pakistani public and I are really very disappointed with this emergency announcement."
To legitimize his position, Musharraf issued a Provisional Constitutional Order, suspending the Constitution. The Senate and National Assembly will continue to function, and regional assemblies in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces will remain operational. The regional assembly in NWFP, which is dominated by Islamists of the MMA, appears to have been suspended.
Some fundamental rights of the Constitution have been abandoned. These include Article 9, which states: "Security of person. No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law." Article 10 is also suspended, which provides safeguards for arrests and detention. As a result, no-one can expect to be told why they are arrested, nor do they need to be presented before a magistrate within 28 days of arrest.
Musharraf has suspended Article 15, thus restricting "freedom of movement", and also Article 16 (freedom of assembly) has been suspended. He has withdrawn citizen's rights to freedom of association (Article 17) and freedom of speech (Article 19) and he has also suspended Article 25, which states that "All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law."
Articles concerning the Federal Shariat (Sharia) Court have been retained, as have Articles in the Constitution relating to "Islamic Provisions".
The selective choices within the Constitution of which sections to remove and which to retain were not made spontaneously. Musharraf obviously knew beforehand what he intended to do - even if his potential ally Benazir Bhutto was never informed. The army's senior officials also must have known long before the act of seizing control was taken. Condoleezza Rice has claimed that she was unaware of his plans to impose martial law, even though she spoke to him from her visit to Turkey on Friday. She has said that the decision to impose martial law was "highly regrettable". She added: "The US has made clear it does not support extra-constitutional measures because they take Pakistan away from the path of democracy and civilian rule."
Gordon Johndroe, the U.S. National Security Council spokesman said: "President Musharraf needs to stand by his pledges to have free and fair elections in January and step down as chief of army staff before retaking the presidential oath of office. All parties involved should move along the democratic path peacefully and quickly."
Britain's Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has condemned the military takeover and has said he is "gravely concerned". He added: "It is vital that the government acts in accordance with the constitution and abides by the commitment to hold free and fair elections on schedule which President Musharraf reiterated to the (British) Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) when they spoke on November 1."
The European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana said of the move: "We regret the decision to declare the state of emergency. We recognize Pakistan's current difficult political and security situation. We express support for Pakistan's struggle against extremism. We urge a solution to be found within the constitution. We condemn any provisions of the state of emergency that are unconstitutional. In general, the rule of law must be respected... The democratic process should not be interrupted any further."
Human Rights Watch made a statement in which it called the emergency decree a "shameless attempt to prevent Pakistanis from enjoying their basic rights under the law and a brazen attempt at muzzling the judiciary."
Musharraf's placing of former cricketer and playboy Imran Khan under house arrest was one of the first actions made under the suspension of fundamental rights. Khan's house near Islamabad was raided by police in the early hours of Sunday morning. Khan has a political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice). He is a vehement opponent of Musharraf. Other opponents of Musharraf were also placed under house arrest.
Khan is furious at Musharraf's usurping of power at this time. He said: "He has committed high treason by negating the orders of the Supreme Court which bars him from taking any unconstitutional steps and by sending in troops after the Supreme Court decision. He is punishable by death... I urge every Pakistani people not to recognize this collaborator chief justice. I urge the people, lawyers, civil society to resist this move by Musharraf. I urge lawyers to boycott the court proceedings."
Before he made the announcement, Musharraf sacked Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Chief Justice who had thwarted so many of his personal political ambitions. When Chaudry was illegally suspended by Musharraf in March, lawyers and Islamists found common cause and created riots. Now again, according to Reuters, lawyers are angry that the Chief Justice has gone. There have been calls by lawyers for nationwide strikes to be mounted today (Monday). The former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Hamid Ali Khan said on Sunday: "We are launching our struggle from tomorrow. Lawyers will be observing a strike tomorrow. We will be holding protests and boycotting courts."
The Chief Justice was among nine judges at the Supreme Court who refused to ratify the Provisional Constitutional Order, claiming it was "unconsitutional". For this, Choudry and the dissenting judges were dismissed. Choudry's replacement is Supreme Court judge Abdul Hameed Dogar. This individual has been one of Musharraf's cronies, and he was appointed earlier in the year to the tribunal set up to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against Iftikhar Chaudhry. On Saturday, a roundup of several lawyers took place. Some members of the PML-N party of Nawaz Sharif were arrested, though some escaped and went into hiding. Even Asma Jehangir, the chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HCRP) has been placed under house arrest.
Troops were placed around the Supreme Court in Islamabad. Elsewhere in the capital, mobile phone networks and telephone lines were cut. A crowd gathered outside President House. Some of these were supporters of Musharraf, and some were critics.
In his televised address on Saturday evening, Musharraf said that he had been forced by circumstances to make "some very painful decisions." He claimed: "I suspect that Pakistan's sovereignty is in danger unless timely action is taken... Extremists are roaming around freely in the country, and they are not scared of law-enforcement agencies." Addressing Western powers, he said: "Kindly understand the criticality of the situation in Pakistan and around Pakistan. Pakistan is on the verge of destabilization. Inaction at this moment is suicide for Pakistan and I cannot allow this country to commit suicide." He also had harsh words for the Supreme Court, saying that it had "punished government officers, including police, leaving the government semi-paralyzed."
From Saudi Arabia, illegally deported former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said: "In the past prime minister and the parliament were targets of martial law but now the Supreme Court is the target. The decision to impose an emergency is unprecedented. Never in history has such treatment been meted out to judges."
Private news channels were shut down as of 5.30 pm local time on Saturday. So far, the main online news sources including English editions of Dawn and the Daily Times are still operating and publishing.
Musharraf may have ruined whatever slim chances there may have been to create a peaceful pretense of democracy. If this venture fails, it will create massive civil unrest. It is too early to condemn him outright. If he does allow democratic elections to go ahead, he might partially redeem his image.
On April 14 this year, when Islamists from the Red Mosque were threatening to plunge the nation into violent chaos, Musharraf said: "The country is passing through the worst ever critical moment and is facing two major threats of religious extremism and sectarianism."
If he had acted then to impose a state of emergency, there would have been less room for cynicism about his motives. He waited a further three months before acting to confront the Islamists of the Red Mosque, and by this time it was too late. Networks of militants had established themselves throughout the nation and attacks proliferated as a result. For him only now to declare martial law, and to rearrange the Supreme Court days away from a decision that may have lost him his presidential election, it appears that he has been motivated by a personal greed for power. The sooner he acts to remove that impression, the sooner Pakistan can move towards some semblance of a modern working democracy.
Musharraf claims he is acting to protect democracy. If this is true, he should really do something now to control the Islamists who are running amok in so many parts of his nation. Failure to do so will only open up the country to more extremism and turmoil. Benazir Bhutto is now calling on other parties to protest martial law. Extremism has flourished in Pakistan where there have been gaps in education, opportunity and justice. If the nation has any hope of redeeming its place as a democracy, it must work on plugging those gaps. Musharraf is playing a dangerous game. Whether he makes the country safer or more dangerous remains to be seen.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Adrian Morgan is a British based writer and artist who has written for Western Resistance since its inception. He also writes for Spero News. He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.read full author bio hereIf you are a reporter or producer who is interested in receiving more information about this writer or this article, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note -- The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views, and/or philosophy of The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Other Articles by Adrian Morgan...Pakistan Imposes Martial Law - What Has Gone Wrong?
Al Qaeda Driven by Undiminished Intent to Attack Homeland’Why Does a Close
U.S. Ally Deny Its Genocide? (Part Three of Three) Why Does a Close U.S. Ally Deny Its Genocide? (Part Two of Three)