Instead of mounting an assault on the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists swarming in Pakistan's northwestern territories, Gen. Pervez Musharraf has declared war on the rule of law and his country's independent judicial system. Aping Bush administration rhetoric about "judicial activism" and the so-called war on terror and the words of Abraham Lincoln as justification, Musharraf has rounded up roughly 3,000 lawyers, as well as independent judges and democracy activists, and some reportedly have been beaten. These are the very secular, educated and middle-class leaders Pakistan most needs to build a stable constitutional democracy that can withstand extremist Islamic fundamentalism.
On Wednesday, police clashed with demonstrators outside the parliament building and reportedly began mass arrests of supporters of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf's contention that emergency rule will preserve "stability" has been exposed as absurd, though his fears that the Pakistani public wants an end to his unconstitutional, strongman tactics appear to be well-founded.
The list of detainees reads like a Who's Who of Pakistani civil society, including:
Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, chief justice of the Supreme Court, whose refusal to rubber-stamp Musharraf's scheme to rig his reelection triggered the current crisis; fired by Musharraf twice, now under house arrest.