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Pakistan: Emergency Declared – No News, No Internet.

Categories: South Asia, Pakistan, Breaking News, Freedom of Speech, Governance, Human Rights, Media & Journalism, Politics, Technology

President Musharraf [1]has declared a state of emergency in Pakistan. According to news sources, among other things this means “The Fundamental Rights of the citizens are now suspended. All the news channels have been taken off air and mobile phone signals and Internet connections jammed.”.

A thriving discussion at All Things Pakistan [2] gives us a glimpse of what the reactions in the blogosphere are like.

The Pakistan Policy Blog [3] states that the army has taken control of the Supreme Court, surrounded the buildings of major news stations, and arrested or detained many politicians. The blog comments on the proclamation text.

In his proclamation of emergency (full text below), Musharraf — identifying himself as chief of army staff, not president — cites the rising violence in the country as the basis for his imposing martial law. However, the text holds the judiciary most culpable for the rise in violence. It lambastes them for allegedly encroaching upon the territory of the legislative and executive branches, stating, “Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism, thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace.”

RedDiaryPk [4] writes on what this confirms – the intentions of the current regime and the consequences of a military rule.

The blatantly off-handed, treasonous, and unconstitutional attacks by General Pervez Musharraf on the judiciary, media, and people of Pakistan have brought the true dictatorial character of the present regime into the lime-light. It has now been proved beyond doubt that Pakistan can never progress into any form of democracy without getting rid of the military from politics. All attempts to enter into any ‘compromise’ or ‘deal’ with the military can only hinder the struggle for democracy.

SAJA Forum [5] is running some comments on the post, including – “They say on Indian TV that this is more than a state of emergency. It is declaration of martial law because the country's constitution has been nullified.”. Some others confirm that news channels are off the air in the country.

Chapati Mystery [6] on what the state of Emergency means.

Next up? Martial Law. More bombings. And the eventual drain of all that capital that had accumulated in the country in the past 8 years. Zimbabwe, here we come. Unless, US and China can come to their senses and do some actual diplomacy. The status is bleak. Let us say that Musharraf resigns and leaves. The Supreme Court declares an election date, the new government solves the Baluchistan issue, th US redeploys significant troops to Afghanistan (and keeps them there), the Pakistani military combats within cities and mountains of Pakistan. War. Chaos. Uncertainty. And this, my gentle readers, would be the best case scenario. A more likely option is a military state somewhere between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe circa 2005 and Gandhi’s India circa 1976. I must be proven wrong.

Comments and discussion at Metroblogging Lahore [7], Pickled Politics [8] and Metroblogging Islamabad [9]. KO [10] writes on what it is like to “return to dictatorship”.

This is a bit of a oxymoron. Pakistan has been run by a military dictator for the last 8 years, but the dictator kept some of the trappings of democracy around, like a free press, an opposition, of not just politicians but private armies belonging to anyone who cared, like the Taliban, roaming around the country, and so on.

Over at Comment Is Free [11], Ali Eteraz writes on the context of the emergency.

Traditionally, a PCO is an order which suspends the constitution and dissolves all fundamental rights as well as legislation and judiciary, installing martial law. Except that Musharraf's PCO only dissolves the judiciary (for overstepping its limits and interfering with the war on terror) while leaving the Assembly intact. The limited scope of the PCO means the current situation is something less than martial law. Yet it cannot rightly be called an emergency either, because that does not involve a PCO. This in-between situation is being called “emergency plus”.

And yes, it's time for the Society Against Internet Censorship in Pakistan [12] to be active again. Dr Awab Alvi sets the ball rolling by suggesting that international bloggers be given the right to blog on their behalf.

I think it's time that all Pakistan based bloggers should stop blogging and be careful since it's being confirmed that martial law is in effect we all have to play it safe – hand over reigns to international reporters and bloggers to help report – we cannot risk it here.

As an example I have handed over my blog posting rights to a free speech
activist Ange Embuldeniya and will start live reporting

I know how much we want to report but please this is a MARTIAL LAW.

The international blog community is at the moment rallying for Pakistan and
we should hear sounds from them very soon.

Awab Alvi's blog, being run by Ange currently can be found here [13], with regular updates on the situation.