Three Pakistani journalists (Reuters) recently left a press meeting in Karachi to find a dark message on their cars: an unaddressed envelope containing a single bullet. A week earlier two of the three journalists, who work for foreign media outlets, were included in a list of a dozen reporters considered “enemies” by a shady group called the Mohajir Rabita Council, which has links to the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement allied with President Pervez Musharraf’s political coalition.
Multiple assassination attempts have failed to remove President Pervez Musharraf from power, yet unrest caused by his suspension of the Supreme Court’s chief justice threatens his authority. Protesters say that Iftikhar Chaudhry, handpicked by Musharraf, was removed over concern he would question the president’s hold on the army chief post in fall 2007 presidential elections. The chief justice has refused to go quietly. Highlighting tensions, a court official was murdered in his home (Australian) hours before a pivotal Supreme Court hearing on the matter. A BBC backgrounder examines the judicial crisis.
Hassan Abbas, a research fellow at Harvard University and author of Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, served as an official in the administrations of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He discusses escalating violence over Musharraf’s decision to suspend Pakistan’s Supreme Court chief justice and says it signifies “the beginning of the end” for the president, who seized power in a 1999 coup. Abbas says deadly clashes over the judicial crisis could not have occurred “without instruction from the top,” and that the government wished to show it would not tolerate dissent. The possibility of an agreement between Musharraf and the exiled Bhutto appears increasingly remote given the Supreme Court controversy, says Abbas.
Manjeet Kripalani, CFR press fellow and India bureau chief for BusinessWeek, discusses the increasing social unrest in Pakistan caused by President Pervez Musharraf's decision to suspend Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry. She says the crisis could leave the president's political future "extremely uncertain.
A few weeks after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf suspended Iftikar Chaudhry, Pakistan’s chief justice, demonstrations boil on around the country. Protesters accuse the president of violating the constitution (al-Jazeera) in order to silence the judge who questioned his authority, though Gen. Musharraf denies (Rediff) the claims, saying “there is a conspiracy against me”. At the same time, the Supreme Court demanded (Reuters) the government provide information about some four hundred people who’ve vanished into police custody since Pakistan allied itself with the United States in 2001. CFR Fellow Manjeet Kripalani discusses Pakistan’s domestic unrest in this new podcast.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's decision to suspend the country's chief justice poses a potential crisis for a leader torn between domestic and international pressures. Musharraf indefinitely removed Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry (IHT) from office for abuse of power, but opponents claim the move was aimed at silencing an outspoken judge before a series of election-year cases challenging the president's authority. Appointed by Musharraf in 2005, Chaudhry increasingly strayed from the government line in human rights cases. Hundreds of lawyers protested Chaudhry’s suspension in front of Islamabad's Supreme Court over what they say is an unconstitutional suspension, and several judges have resigned (BBC). In an unlikely alliance, members of Pakistan's conservative Islamist coalition joined the secular opposition in demonstrations, leading to the arrest of the coalition's leader. As protests broke out (Times of London) in other cities, Musharraf's presidential predecessor Rafiq Tarar was arrested at a Lahore rally.
Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise stop in Islamabad to deliver a stern warning (NYT) to President Pervez Musharraf that Washington may reduce aid to Islamabad if he does not take a more offensive approach toward terrorists that have allegedly sought refuge close to the Afghan border. President Bush’s new budget includes $300 million in military aid to Pakistan to support counterterrorism activities and stop cross border raids into Afghanistan. The U.S. Congress has threatened to cut the military funding (CSMonitor) if Islamabad does not take a more aggressive approach toward controlling militants within Pakistan. The new pressure marks a change in tone from just last year, when Bush referred to Musharraf as “my buddy.” After Cheney’s brief visit, Pakistan’s foreign office responded pointedly, saying Islamabad does not take orders (The News) on how it handles counterterrorism efforts.
Ambassador Dennis Kux, a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia program and former Foreign Service South Asia specialist, discusses the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under international pressure to control the Taliban and other extremists from making cross-border raids into Afghanistan, the government of President Pervez Musharraf recently proposed mining and fencing the border. Kux says the idea is not a viable solution and that the Pakistanis cannot stop “individuals going across what has long been an open border.” He also says that the Pakistani intelligence agency’s longtime links to militant groups as well as sympathy for the Taliban in tribal areas near the border serve as obstacles to stopping incursions into Afghanistan.
President Pervez Musharraf said last week on New Delhi Television that Pakistan will give up its claim on Kashmir if India accepts a four-point resolution, including autonomy for the region under a joint government with Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri representation. Within days, a spokeswoman from Pakistan’s foreign ministry followed up by asserting that Islamabad did not consider the territory an “integral part” of Pakistan. Tasnim Aslam, whose remarks at a press conference in Islamabad drew criticism (The News) from Pakistani journalists, said that conflict between India and Pakistan was over the Kashmiris right to “decide their future” rather than claims on the India-controlled area of the Himalayan region. The comments have stirred speculation about whether Pakistan is making a break with decades-old policy or merely maneuvering to fend off international criticism on other fronts.
A suicide bomb targeting a Pakistani military school (BBC) has claimed at least forty-two lives in Dargai, a village in the North West Frontier Province and a stronghold of a banned pro-Taliban movement. The militant attack was the deadliest suffered by Pakistani armed forces since 2002, when they began efforts to control terrorist elements in the volatile, semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pakistani-Afghan border. Federal Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao says the attack was likely retaliation (VOA) for last week’s bombing of a madrassa in nearby Bajaur. Although some Pakistanis speculate U.S. or NATO forces were behind the madrassa attack, President Pervez Musharraf continues to defend what he says was a Pakistani counterterrorism air strike (Dawn).