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Living together - Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe [Report of the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe] PDF DOWNLOAD >>

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The Economist - July 19, 2007 Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, says he will stay in uniform and seek re-election Elections loom and Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, has chosen his means of staying in power: war. His term as president expires in October and this week he revealed that he will seek indirect re-election from Pakistan's present legislature, without stepping down as the country’s military chief. He summoned journalists to explain that a purely civilian government would not be strong enough to put down extremists. Doing so, he declared an open season on Islamic terrorists, saying that: “We are in direct confrontation with extremist forces. It is moderates versus extremists.” The general denied that a state of emergency will be imposed and said that parliamentary elections will be held by early next year. His critics had worried that he would use a surge of extremist attacks that have claimed over 130 lives this month, mainly among soldiers in the North-West Frontier Province, to justify extending his role as a military ruler. In addition the general has been under pressure from a strong opposition movement that formed after he tried to sack Pakistan's chief justice in March. The country is also beleaguered by floods that have affected 2.2m people in the impoverished and restive province of Baluchistan. Opposition parties and many ordinary Pakistanis are still not convinced that the autocratic general, who has ruled for eight years, will countenance giving up power. But his strategy of taking on Islamic extremists should ensure continued American support. American officials say they are reassured by the general's commitment to “free and fair” elections. The storming of the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad last week, in which over 100 people were killed (including 73 identified as suspected militants), has provoked many attacks on the army and threats of an “Islamic revolution” in the country. Ayman al-Zawahri, an al-Qaeda leader, has issued a call to arms to Pakistanis by saying that “Musharraf and his hunting dogs have rubbed your honour in the dirt in the service of the Crusaders and the Jews.” The past week has seen a string of suicide attacks on government offices and against soldiers in North Waziristan, and on a military convoy and against a police recruitment centre in the North-West Frontier Province. The violence was ratcheted up further when pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan called an end to a ten-month peace deal with the government, a blow to General Musharraf’s confused strategy in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. The general has announced that he will redeploy two divisions to the frontier region, apparently against the wishes of his own high command. The Americans, again, have welcomed the end of the arrangement with the pro-Taliban forces, having dismissed it earlier as a “carrot approach” that showed Pakistan’s ambiguous anti-militant efforts. They will have been less pleased that the general said he still hopes to make peace with the militants. But the resumption of violence risks stirring more opposition. It is likely, too, to make it harder to implement an American $750m five-year development programme. A greater threat may be that violence, like that at the siege of the Red Mosque, spreads to the rest of the country. Along with numerous roadside bombs, rocket-attacks and suicide assaults against the army, civilians have been struck. In Islamabad a suicide bomber exploded at a rally called by the chief justice this week, killing 16 people and wounding many. No one claimed responsibility for attacking the secular opposition, but the result has been to throw the country into greater disarray. Foto (c) Economist.com





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