From The Times Online:
Pervez Musharraf made his first sensible move for three days in suggesting that parliamentary elections might go ahead as planned in January.
That may be a sign that he is listening to the appalled reaction, at home and abroad, to his state of emergency. But Britain and the US, the countries best placed to make that case, have very few levers to pull, officials quietly acknowledge, unless they want to ditch Musharraf as President – and at this point, they don’t.
Their reflex in favour of the devil they know is justifiable provided that Musharraf brings Pakistan immediately back to the schedule for elections. But the status quo is not stable; the past three days are the unsurprising climax to the crises of the past six months.
Yesterday Musharraf appeared to offer a half-concession, as Malik Qayyum, his Attorney-General, said that “it has been decided there would be no delay in the election”. He added that national and provincial assemblies would be dissolved by November 15 and that elections would be held within 60 days.
But this contradicted the earlier view of Shaukat Aziz, the Prime Minister, that elections were likely to be put off by a year or two. Yesterday Aziz still left room for a delay, saying that “the next general elections will be held according to the schedule or a programme that will be finalised after consultation with all the stakeholders”.
Musharraf, in meeting foreign ambassadors yesterday, also tried to strike a conciliatory tone. State-run television reported him as telling them: “I’m determined to remove my uniform once we correct these pillars in the judiciary and the executive and the parliament.” By “correcting the judiciary”, he seems to mean removing the majority on the Supreme Court that were likely to say this week that his carefully choreographed reelection last month was unconstitutional.
It is in character for Musharraf, after striking out inappropriately, to try to pretend that it is business as usual. But it isn’t. He has almost no support left, even in the Army, although so far, it is following his orders.
Britain and the US said yesterday that they had no plans to cut back aid for fear of depriving regions desperately in need of help. In the US, however, in an election year, Congress will have plenty to say and may try to force cuts under laws curbing aid to governments that have carried out coups.
The US and Britain may also try to lever Nawaz Sharif, the exiled leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, one of the two big parties, back into politics. Yesterday his brother, Shahbaz, said that Nawaz, now in Saudi Arabia, hoped to return to London soon and that he might even resurrect an alliance with Benazir Bhutto, leader of the rival Pakistan People’s Party. The US and Britain can signal their approval for these steps. But their influence is slim, given that they have backed a military leader, a hot-headed one at that, and even after six months of serious misjudgments, still prefer him to the unknown.
From the Washington Post:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 5 — Lawyers across Pakistan demonstrated by the thousands Monday, demanding an end to emergency rule and vowing to keep up their dissent until President Pervez Musharraf resigns.
The Pakistani government made clear that it would brook no opposition, swiftly deploying police with tear gas and batons to beat back demonstrators.
Political parties are expected to join the protests in the coming days, although it remains unclear to what extent members will turn out in the streets. Opposition leaders said that several thousand party activists, human rights advocates and lawyers have been taken into custody since Saturday in a bid by the government to snuff out the anti-government movement before it can gain traction.
Meanwhile, authorities defied mounting domestic and international pressure to end emergency rule and schedule parliamentary elections that are supposed to be held by January. President Bush urged Pakistan to “restore democracy as quickly as possible,” but stopped short of saying that the moves by Musharraf, a top U.S. ally in counterterrorism efforts, would affect U.S. aid.
On Saturday, Musharraf said he had declared an emergency in the interest of fighting terrorism. But top Musharraf aides have conceded that his primary motivation was an impending Supreme Court decision that would have disqualified him from serving another term.
Musharraf met in the morning with dozens of foreign diplomats, telling them he had no choice but to declare an emergency and suspend the constitution.
“I can assure you there will be harmony,” he said, according to state-run television. “Confidence will come back into the government, into law enforcement agencies, and Pakistan will start moving again on the same track as we were moving.”
Musharraf declined to give details of when elections would be held or when he would step down as army chief, as he had promised to do.
The opposition group led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, one of the main targets of the government’s raids, said it had decided to back the lawyers in a nationwide movement against Musharraf.
But the nation’s largest opposition party, the Pakistan People’s Party, led by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is in a trickier spot. Bhutto had spent months before the imposition of emergency rule negotiating a possible power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf that might have allowed her to become prime minister.
Musharraf’s announcement, she said in an interview Monday night, violated their agreement.
“Our goal is to get Musharraf to revive the constitution, to retire as chief of army staff by November 15 and to have the elections held on schedule,” Bhutto said.
Other opposition parties have said they do not believe free and fair elections are possible under Musharraf, but Bhutto disagreed.
Asked if she would meet with Musharraf, Bhutto said, “He hasn’t asked me to meet him.”