Mass arrests in Pakistan – general elections ‘postponed’

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GENERAL Pervez Musharraf has carried out his second military coup. The first made him president, and last weekend’s, in his own words, ‘prevented the country from committing suicide’ by indefinitely postponing democratic general elections.

President Musharraf decreed the arrest of 500 judges, lawyers, journalists and politicians. He shut down the non-state media completely and foreign media outlets such as the BBC World Service.

The constitutional right to assembly and free speech has been banned, the chief of the Supreme Court has been sacked and other judges have been forced to take oaths of allegiance to the coup leader.

Under the State of Emergency regulations, the police can jail indefinitely any person that they are suspicious of without a charge or trial and without any access to solicitors.

The Supreme Court has been told that it does not have the power to rescind the emergency regulations. The constitutional power has been abolished and all power now rests with the military through President Musharraf.

However, the general does not have mass support in his country, and that is the reason for the coup.

In the areas of Pakistan next to Afghanistan, the Pakistani army is engaged in a war with militants, a war which it is losing and in which the United States has already threatened to intervene.

Inside the country, in the cities, Musharraf has been at war with the judiciary, with the lawyers and with the working class.

On Monday, there is to be a strike of lawyers which can very quickly develop into a general strike that will have the power to topple the military-police regime.

Musharraf’s only real constituency remains the governments of the United States and Great Britain.

They supported his original coup and have armed his regime, helped finance it and christened it as their strategic ally in the region in ‘the war on terror’.

In this capacity, they have allowed him to develop nuclear weapons and to develop the means to deliver them to all parts of central and south Asia and the Gulf.

In fact, when it was revealed that elements close to the Pakistani regime had been selling nuclear material to different governments in different parts of the world, such was the regime’s strategic importance to Washington and London neither of them forcibly intervened over the issue.

Now there is talk in the United States of intervention in Pakistan to prop up Musharraf. The American theory is that the removal of Musharraf equals handing over Pakistan to Osama bin Laden, who is still living in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, the labour movement in Britain and in the United States must insist that the Pakistani people are allowed to decide who is to govern them. There must be no Anglo-American military intervention.

In fact, the measures that Musharraf has been forced to take by his isolation from the Pakistani people have proven to be an embarrassment for the imperialist powers.

They had just returned Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan to make a bloc with Musharraf to try and reconfigure the regime to make it more acceptable to the mass of the Pakistani people.

Now Mrs Bhutto has been outflanked. She has not been arrested and she is not under house arrest, as is Imran Khan.

She will now have to make up her mind quickly which side she is on, whether she stands with the military-police dictatorship or is in support of the struggle of the Pakistani people for a government of their choice.

On Monday the lawyers’ strike can very quickly transform itself into a general strike that can bring down the military regime.

British workers must insist that the only legitimate British policy in this situation is non-intervention. The Pakistani people must be allowed to decide who will govern them.

Not only that, British troops must be withdrawn from the Gulf, Afghanistan and the Middle East to remove an oppressing force, so that the forces of national liberation can triumph all over the region.