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Pakistan on the Brink

Posted by Fredsvenn den november 6, 2007

Pakistan is on the brink: unpopular president General Pervez Musharraf has imposed a state of emergency, sacked the Supreme Court, shut down the media and basic freedoms, and imprisoned democratic opposition leaders. The general blames his actions on an imagined coalition of terrorists and independent-minded judges — but his real fear may be losing absolute power.

Elections are planned for January 2008 — they must not be postponed. But martial law and the imprisonment of democratic opposition leaders don’t make for a free and fair vote either. So we’re calling on the international community — particularly the US Congress, which has voted Musharraf billions of dollars in military aid over the last six years — to use all its leverage for swift elections and restoring constitutional protections. Sign our petition immediately, then tell your friends so they can do the same —


We just received this email from Asma Jahangir, head of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission and the UN’s Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion worldwide. Now under house arrest in Lahore, she’s one of many Pakistanis urgently asking the world community to raise our voice:

There is a strong crackdown on the press and lawyers… The Chief Justice is under house arrest (unofficially). The President of the Supreme Court Bar (Aitzaz Ahsan) and 2 former presidents, Mr. Muneer Malik and Tariq Mahmood have been imprisoned for one month under the Preventive Detention laws…

There are other scores political leaders who have also been arrested. Yesterday I was house arrested for 90 days… the President (who has lost his marbles) said that he had to clamp down on the press and the judiciary to curb terrorism. Those he has arrested are progressive, secular minded people, while the terrorists are offered negotiations and ceasefires.

Lawyers and civil society will challenge the government and the scene is likely to get uglier. We want friends of Pakistan to urge the US administration to stop all support of the instable dictator, as his lust for power is bringing the country close to a worse form of civil strife…

–Asma Jahangir
Lahore, Pakistan

General Musharraf claims that martial law is necessary to combat extremist terror. But it just doesn’t add up. Musharraf retains strong links with the Pakistani Taliban (see PS below). His emergency powers are being directed only against the democratic opposition, free press and judiciary – just days before a scheduled ruling on whether Musharraf could run for president while remaining army chief. In an August poll, too, Pakistanis rated «ensuring an independent judiciary, free press and free elections» as their top priority.

Right now, leaders around the world are deciding how to respond. The General is dressing up his crackdown in the rhetoric of «anti-terrorism» because Musharraf and his military supporters depend on foreign military aid and international recognition to maintain their legitimacy. That’s why we have to speak out now.

The world can’t ignore the threat of chaos in Pakistan, or the voices of our fellow democrats there. Let’s come together as we did on Burma, and move our governments to act. In these crucial early days, the voice of the world’s people has tremendous power. Let’s use it. Sign the petition.

With hope,

Paul, Pascal, Galit, Ricken, Graziela, Ben and the whole Avaaz team

PS for more background on Pakistani polls and Musharraf’s links to the Pakistani Taliban.

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