Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was placed under house arrest again, sparking fresh protests Tuesday and increasing pressure on President Pervez Musharraf to ease his grip on power and restore the country’s constitution.
What the commentators said
Musharraf said he was imposing emergency rule to keep his country from “commiting suicide,” said USA Today in an editorial. But surely martial law is overkill when the threat he’s worried about isn’t “evil-looking extremists” but a bunch of “lawyers in suits, chanting such quaint slogans as: ‘Dictatorship? Not acceptable.’”
Musharraf appears to have “be planting the seeds to his own downfall” by going after the lawyers, said H.D.S. Greenway in The Boston Globe (free registration). “Democracy is not always the best tool for fighting terrorists,” and Musharraf insists ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was tying his hands. But when a “leader turns on the very institutions that underpin a secular democratic society, then it is the extremists who are most likely to benefit.”
The irony is that “the alternative to Musharraf's military rule is not a mob of radical Islamists,” said Thomas R. Pickering, Carla Hills, and Morton Abromowitz in The Washington Post (free registration). “This is not Iran in the 1970s.” Polls consistently show that in free elections “the result would be a moderate, pro-Western, anti-extremist government” commited to “combating not only al-Qaeda but also the political and military leadership of the Taliban living in Pakistan.”