President Pervez Musharraf is in denial, said Hasan-Askari Rizvi in Islamabad’s Daily Times. Protests against his military rule have been growing bigger and louder since March, when he tried to fire the country’s independent-minded chief justice. Musharraf has been trying to portray the demonstrations as the work of a few opposition activists egged on by the sensationalist media. “As a matter of fact, the protest movement enjoys widespread support in all provinces.” Indeed, Musharraf’s assault on the judiciary “has become an umbrella cause for all those with grievances against the government.” In many parts of Pakistan, ordinary people are alienated by the rising violence—in Baluchistan, where a “low-key” insurgency has been simmering, and particularly in the tribal areas, where religious extremists have taken to broadcasting such radical calls to jihad that even the Islamist parties are alarmed.
“The people are up to here with extra-constitutionalism,” said Kamran Shafi, also in the Daily Times. They demand “the immediate application of the rule of law.” Musharraf made a huge blunder in banning media coverage of the protests against him. That move resulted in the jailing of journalists, which Pakistanis rightly saw as an attempt to punish the messenger and ignore the message. They want to know why the security forces are going after reporters rather than intervening in Khyber province, where an “illegal tribal jirga” just gunned down three men and a woman for alleged adultery. The people demand elections. Pakistan has been ruled by the army chief for far too long. This time, “martial law is not an option.”
That’s because Musharraf, the quintessential military man, has nevertheless shaken our confidence in the military, said A. Rahim Yousefzai in the Karachi Dawn. “Pakistanis have always looked up to the army for protection in cases of political victimization and grave injustices.” But last month, militias loyal to Musharraf’s party slaughtered 41 people at an anti-government protest in Karachi. “When a serving army chief is, allegedly, identified with a political group involved in killing its opponents, whom do the citizens turn to?” The government and the army are both implicated in this political disaster. “Incompetence coupled with inefficiency combined with arrogance and myopia is a toxic mix.” The regime has to go.
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