On the Record

Thousands Protest Emergency Rule in Pakistan

Stephen P. Cohen

Opposition groups said thousands of their supporters have been arrested in the wake of President Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of emergency rule this weekend. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and two experts consider the political unrest in Pakistan.

(exceprts):

STEPHEN COHEN, Brookings Institution: Well, it was a concern, but I would add to Dan Markey’s comments that, behind this, you have the factor of Musharraf’s own massive ego. He really believes he’s indispensable for the future of Pakistan. And being an army man, he has also desires to remain in control of the situation. So I think there’s a personality factor there, as well.

STEPHEN COHEN: It’s partially true, but I think the greater issue is that the Supreme Court began to act like a supreme court, and Pakistan had never had a supreme court that was this activist. It was like an American Supreme Court, and this is something that everybody found unacceptable, except those people who benefited directly from it.

STEPHEN COHEN: I heard the same thing. They’re primarily unhappy not because he’s gathered power in his own hands, but because he’s forced the army into a counterinsurgency operation for which they’re not prepared and not trained, and they’ve suffered badly in this. They’ve been humiliated and embarrassed, both in the northwest frontier and so on, so I think that’s another factor that may generate some discontent in the army.

Plus, if they do go to the streets in large numbers in Punjab, then you’ll see the army taking another look at whether he’s their man. And there are other generals, I think, who will be prepared to step in.

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