Police officers armed with tear gas and clubs attacked thousands of protesting lawyers in the city of Lahore today and rounded up lawyers in other cities as the government of the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, faced the first signs of concerted resistance to the imposition of emergency rule on Saturday.
Just imagine such a scene here. Well you probably can't because it would never happen. Instead the lawyers would be on the edge of the crowd handing out cards and soliciting business from the protesters being beaten. OK, I'm being unduly hard on lawyers, but when a opportunity presents itself, well you just have to go for it (this excludes Michael Wade, who happens to be a good lawyer [whew, covered my rear on that one]).
Anyway, I found the headline odd since the protest cited by the NYT was being led by lawyers. In a constitutional crisis such as that being suffered by Pakistan, that's actually a good thing and after all my snark I have to tip my hat to their courage in confronting the police.
Meanwhile, according to reports, up to 3,500 activists and protesters have been arrested throughout the country (although the article quoted here says 2,000).
Lawyers aren't the only protesters. Journalists are involved as well:
In a showdown this afternoon between the government and the news media, hundreds of journalists and printers at the Jang Group, Pakistan’s largest media group, confronted the police and officials from the government’s press information department at the offices of Awam, the afternoon newspaper in Karachi.
The government officials ordered the newspaper’s editor, Nazeer Leghari, not to print a supplement, and the police threatened to close down the plant, according to a statement issued by the Jang Group. When the newspaper’s management refused to obey, the officials withdrew, the statement said.
More courage, which this time seems to have won out.
The first outward sign of US displeasure was manifested in the cancellation of some mutual defense talks:
Eric Edelman, an under secretary of defense, was meant to head an American delegation to the talks, beginning on Tuesday, but the meetings will be delayed until conditions are “more conducive to achieving the important objectives of all those who value democracy and a constitutional role,” said Elizabeth Colton, a spokeswoman at the American Embassy.
Most feel withholding US miliary aid is probably the most effective way, short-term, of gaining Musharraf's attention.
“The resistance is unlikely to succeed unless the political parties come into the process,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, an analyst in Lahore who teaches at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
So, where is Benazir Bhutto?
In a telephone interview from her home in Karachi, Ms. Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan last month with the blessing of the United States, said she would fly to Islamabad on Wednesday, where she hoped to meet with other opposition political parties.
She insisted a rally planned by her party would go ahead on Friday in Rawalpindi. It would be staged as a protest rather than a political gathering, she said.
“We decided this would be a protest meeting where we would protest the imposition of military rule,” she said. "This protest movement will continue until the Constitution is restored."
Of course, that means unless Musharraf backs off and rescinds the state of emergency declaration, things could definitely heat up more come Wednesday. What her supporters don't want to see, however, is any sign of cooperation with Musharraf:
“I hope she resists,” said Syeda Abida Hussain, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. “If she co-operates, she will be politically annihilated.”
Stand by for an interesting and volatile week in Pakistan.
When this train finally wrecks, US foreign policy will bear a large portion of the blame, at least in the passive sense of failure to prevent a preventable occurence. Like Iran in 1979, backing a dead horse for far too long will result in a collapse of US influence when the regime inevitably goes under.
We need to make some new friends in Pakistan by working against Musharraf and his entire cadre. He can’t fix Pakistan, but he can and is breaking it.
The lawyers are protesting because the initial focus of Musharraf’s detentions was the Supreme Court. You may remember that when Musharraf tried to force out the Chief Justice earlier this year, there were a multitude of protests, and lawyers were prominent in all of them.
Just imagine such a scene here. Well you probably can’t because it would never happen. Instead the lawyers would be on the edge of the crowd handing out cards and soliciting business from the protesters being beaten. OK, I’m being unduly hard on lawyers, but when a opportunity presents itself, well you just have to go for it (this excludes Michael Wade, who happens to be a good lawyer [whew, covered my rear on that one]).
Yes - beat up on the lawyers. True authoritarians hate lawyers. Or mock them. Or make fun of them. Or beat them. Or arrest them. Or accuse them of being anti-Bush/anti-American because they have the nerve to challenge authoriry.
What a telling post. What a typical wingnut position. Wingnuttery at its finest.
They don’t want you to know this, but many lawyers in this great country earn less than you do because they are motivated not by money but by principles. If we were dumb enough to elect a Musharaff who tried to shut down the justice system, you bet your ass the lawyers in this country would be out in the streets. I’d be one of them.