It’s been a rough ride for Pervez Musharraf these last few months. First, he found the public up in arms over his sacking of the chief justice, who’s now been reinstated. Then came Lal Masjid and its violent aftermath and now, as things spin out of control in the country’s restive north-western parts bordering Afghanistan, the General has been toying with the option of declaring a state of emergency. The emergency route is unlikely to calm things down in Pakistan. All this talk of emergency/ no-emergency does nothing to enhance Mr Musharraf or Pakistan’s image. Under attack for subverting democracy both by his opponents within the country and political rivals like Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto from abroad, a possible emergency will be seen as a further attempt by him to derail democracy. It will restrict all civil liberties and curtail Parliament’s right to make laws. Ms Bhutto has opposed this vehemently and has threatened to pull out of any agreement with the Musharraf government if he tries to either get himself elected prematurely or refuse to give up his uniform.
The reinstatement of the chief justice means that there are likely to be legal challenges in his bid to seek a new term. Following Lal Masjid, a triumph for the General in the Washington beltway perhaps, fundamentalist forces within Pakistan have gathered force. There have been several violent bomb attacks and clashes between extremists and the army in the tribal belt. The army has suffered heavy casualties, something the government has now reluctantly acknowledged. What must be worrying to Mr Musharraf is that the Bush presidency is moving into its lameduck stage. Noises from Democratic candidates like Barack Obama have not been encouraging at all. Washington may not admit it publicly, but it is fast losing hope that Mr Musharraf is effective in the fight against terror given the alarming developments in the region. The Taliban and its supporters have refused to engage in the recent meeting which Mr Musharraf was meant to attend with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. This renders the meet more or less meaningless.
All these bode ill for India as violence in Pakistan could always spill over across the volatile borders. New Delhi has so far been restrained in its reaction but it cannot afford not to set in place certain precautions to minimise any negative fall-out. As for the General, the sooner he paves the way for a return to democracy, the better for Pakistan and the entire region.