I realised that late one night last week when a flurry of phone calls and text messages about a possible state of Emergency in Pakistan kept me awake.
In our part of the world rumours never remain rumours for too long. Something big was brewing I thought, as my mind raced back to 1999 when phone lines burned with the news that General Pervez Musharraf had captured power in Pakistan. His plane had taken off from Colombo, where I then lived, and was not allowed to land in Karachi. The army took control of the airport and opened the runway for their Chief to land.
Eight years ago, news travelled faster by phone. As rumours swept across the border this time, I got off the phone and logged into cyberspace to find out what Pakistanis themselves had to say about their leader’s plans to curb their fundamental rights and discovered that cyber space was on the boil. Bloggers were busy mulling Pakistan’s future, Musharraf’s strategy and the fate of a nation under Emergency. News and television websites were trying to outdo each other in their attempts to be the first to announce that Emergency had indeed been imposed. The buzz was ominous.
Pakistan is not only our neighbour, it is as much part of our psyche today as it was when the subcontinent was divided 60 years ago. So is Musharraf, the General most Indians love to hate. Now, he is increasingly becoming a disliked figure on the Internet. As I trawled through the websites in search of those little nuggets that pull together the real picture, I was amazed by the vitriol poured by bloggers at Musharraf.
“The emergency of having an Emergency seems to be the emergency with President Musharraf’s further survival as President,” wrote one. Another, Teeth Maestro, wrote: “At the end of the road, we now see a battle-worn, tired and heavily bleeding Musharraf gasping for his last breath... it seems this punching bag has taken too many hits this year but still has the b***s to stand up and defend his kursi. I now feel we just have to sit back and await the final death blow on Musharraf which can be served up by anyone who would be willing to take a stab at this bleeding tyrant and maybe teach him a lesson or two... the offer is open to anyone for the taking …”
One of the better blog sites — All About Pakistan (ATP) — is a very balanced one-stop shop for everything about our neighbour. The purpose of ATP is to embrace Pakistan in all its dimensions: its politics, its culture, its minutia, its beauty, its warts, its potential, its pitfalls, its facial hair, its turbaned heads, its shuttlecock burqas, its jet-setting supermodels, its high-flying bankers, its rock bands, its qawalls, its poets, its street vendors, its swindling politicians, its scheming bureaucrats, its resolute people — in essence, all things Pakistani, the website says .
It provides a peek into the mood amongst Pakistanis too. A poll on the site — www.pakistaniat.com — says 36 percent of those polled want Musharraf to give up both offices he holds. More than 26 percent want him to give up at least one office, while only 16.7 percent would like to continue seeing him as President and chief of army.
I am not privy to Urdu websites so I am not sure what they are saying, but given the swell of opposition I’d be reading the blogs very carefully to gauge the national mood if I were Musharraf.