Saturday, November 3, 2007

Musharraf's speech

Musharraf's speech today announcing the state of emergency was interesting. Unlike most speeches on occasions of this nature it was not just flag waving and martial music. Musharraf tried to make a case for his action and he was actually trying quite hard to convince the audience. He realizes his future is on a knife's edge and the reaction of the public in the next few days will literally be a question of life or death for him. His argument basically was that the rule of law had broken down and he had to take action. For the breakdown of the rule of law he blamed first the extremists who he said were trying to shove an alien version of Islam down people's throats. Second perversely he blamed the supreme court which he said had become so intrusive that the government had become paralyzed. He referred to the more than a hundred suo moto cases brought forward by the supreme court. As I understand it a suo moto case is where the supreme court independently without someone bringing a case to the court takes up a particular issue and orders investigations and decrees remedies. That seems a bit strange to me because it seems to provide the supreme court with an inordinate amount of power with no checks. (When I google suo moto I get a definition and then a lot of links to the supreme court actions in Pakistan, so maybe it is an idiosyncrasy of the Pakistani legal system). Musharraf's argument was that the Supreme court's intrusion into executive function had upset the balance between the branches of government, paralyzed the executive and severely hampered law enforcement activities thus promoting lawlessness. He also mentioned that the Supreme court had still not ruled on the legality of his election while pursuing cases that it itself creates. All this he said had lead to an atmosphere of uncertainty which was effecting the economic health of the country. He claimed that after seven years of growth the economy was showing signs of stalling as investors stayed away because of the uncertainty. The emergency he said was a minimalist emergency. None of the governments, provincial and federal would be dissolved and the transition to full fledged democracy would continue.

All in all it was a surprisingly effective speech. There was no soaring rhetoric, not much god and country. Rather it was presented as the complaints of a man trying to do his job and being frustrated by officious busybodies. The question is whether the people of Pakistan will buy it. If they do he has bought himself a few more months to handle the jihadi problem. If not I am sure the military will find someone else.

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