Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pakistan: Opposition unites as repression intensifies

Green Left

Tony Iltis
16 November 2007

While Pakistan’s dictator General Pervez Musharraf has justified his November 3 imposition of emergency rule with the supposed threat of Islamic terrorism, the brunt of the crackdown has been felt by students, trade unionists, the left, the mainstream opposition parties, civil society and the movement of advocates (lawyers) — who have been in the forefront of resistance to the regime since March.

This was illustrated on November 4 when over 100 activists were arrested at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Lahore office while, at the same time, 25 Taliban militants were released as part of a prisoner exchange for 213 soldiers.

The state of emergency began with the pre-emptive arrest of hundreds of activists and advocates. The latter led mass protests after Musharraf sacked supreme court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March, due to his upholding of judicial independence. These protests saw Chaudhry reinstated in July. The likelihood that the Supreme Court would rule against Musharraf being able to run for president while remain head of the military was the most likely reason for the declaration of the state of emergency that has seen Chaudhry and other Supreme Court judges placed under house arrest.

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