Musharraf’s Last Act?

Pervez Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency is likely to weaken rather than strengthen his hold on power and ability to act effectively against terrorists. His opponents are uniting against him, the army is demoralized, and Islamist extremists may be emboldened.

Desperate to hold onto power, Pervez Musharraf has discarded Pakistan’s constitutional framework and declared a state of emergency. His goal? To stifle the independent judiciary and free media. Artfully, though shamelessly, he has tried to sell this action as an effort to bring about stability and help fight the war on terror more effectively. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Pakistan’s history is any indicator, his decision to impose martial law may prove to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

General Musharraf appeared on the national scene on October 12, 1999, when he ousted an elected government and announced an ambitious “nation-building” project. Many Pakistanis, disillusioned with Pakistan’s political class, remained mute, thinking that he might deliver. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America brought Musharraf into the international limelight as he agreed to ditch the Taliban and support the United States-led war on terror.

Musharraf clamped down on some religious militants operating inside Pakistan and also on those fighting Indian forces in Kashmir. As a result, Pakistan was rewarded with American financial assistance and arms. In furtherance of his re-alignment, Musharraf sent the Pakistani army into the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan for the first time since Pakistan’s independence. Operations there against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces brought mixed results.

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