Pakistan: Bloody Protests & Media Censorship
Pakistan’s Chief Justice was roughed up by the police. For more photos of violent demonstrations look up BBC.
President Pervez Musharraf seems to have disturbed the hornets’ nest by sacking on Friday Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. With pressure mounting from the US to “do more” vis-a-vis the Taliban, this is a dangerous development for General Musharraf at home.
In view of the protests and violence spreading in different parts of the country, Pakistan’s Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday reprimanded TV channels for showing live footage of protests by lawyers’ supporting Chief Justice Chaudhry.
The BBC reports that two channels, Aaj and Geo, were forced off air for some time. When their signals were restored, they did not show any of the same footage again.
Observes suggest the military ruler’s real motive was to weaken the judiciary ahead of a controversial plan to get re-elected in uniform,says Zee News.
“Correspondents say many people believe the chief justice was suspended because he took up cases unpopular with the government. These include investigations into the highly sensitive issue of the disappearance of political activists allegedly detained illegally by the security forces.
” ‘This is first shot across Musharraf’s bows and the unrest caused by the sacking of the Chief Justice suggests the road ahead for Musharraf is going to be very difficult,’ political analyst Najam Sethi said.
“Musharraf has never been afraid to deal with the courts. In 2000 he dismissed 18 judges, including the Chief Justice, for failing to take oaths of office under a provisional constitution issued after his October 1999 coup.
“Sethi, however, said Musharraf’s move would backfire by harming his image both at home, where he portrays himself as the cure for corruption and instability, and also internationally as a key US ally.
Thousands of lawyers took part in Monday’s protests.”
Meanwhile the Opposition parties have announced a nation-wide strike on Friday to protest against the sacking of Pakistan’s Chief Justice.
The Reuters adds: “The controversy comes at an awkward time for President Pervez Musharraf, who came to power following a military coup more than seven years ago.
“Musharraf is under pressure from the United States to act forcibly against the Taliban on Pakistani soil and also to strengthen democracy when elections are held in his volatile Muslim nation either later this year or in early 2008.
“Chaudhary’s refusal to go quietly is a rare show of defiance, and virtually the first time Musharraf has run into a challenge to his authority from within the Pakistani establishment.”
Pakistan’s wellknown cricketer-cum-politician Imran Khan, one of many prominent citizens to join the protesters, described the demonstrations “as a defining moment in Pakistan’s history, with potentially enormous political ramifications”.