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Pakistan's showdown continues
Pakistani activists said mass arrests of lawyers and opposition politicians had grown into an unprecedented assault on civil society. It would "fit the American soul" to side with the protesters, said The Seattle Times, but stability comes first
 

W

hat happened
Pakistani activists said mass arrests of lawyers and opposition politicians had grown into an unprecedented assault on civil society, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. President Pervez Musharraf imposed military rule over the weekend and ousted Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Chaudhry said the country’s constitution was being “ripped to shreds,” and he urged lawyers to continue protesting.

What the commentators said
Chaudhry has emerged as an eloquent champion of freedom, said The Seattle Times in an editorial. It would “fit the American soul” to back him up without reservations, but “caution is the best policy.” The U.S. simply can’t afford to do anything to upset the status quo in Pakistan—“a sore spot of radical Islam”—because we might end up with “a government much more troublesome than Musharraf’s.”

If Pakistanis want to change their country, the last thing the U.S. should do is meddle, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post (free registration). We tried that in Iran nearly 30 years ago, when Iranians were protesting to get rid of our “friend,” the Shah. That didn’t exactly work out the way we hoped, and if we meddle in Pakistan we’ll only “get things wrong” again.

Washington has already gotten things wrong by trusting Musharraf, said Mohammed Hanif in The New York Times (free registration). “General Musharraf has always tried to cultivate an impression in the West that he is the only one holding the country together, that after him we can only expect anarchy. But in a country where arts teachers and lawyers are behind bars and suicide bombers are allowed to go free, we definitely need to redefine anarchy.”
 

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