Tonight’s Pakistan update —
Benazir Bhutto predicts a year before elections, however she is gathering a coalition, at present tying into two nationalist parties from Balochistan.
Shaukat Aziz is saying that it’s possible the elections will be delayed, but Musharraf has said at other points that they will proceed on time.
MMA, JuI, and PML-N party activists are being rounded up, and the lawyers and media contingents are promising demonstrations. There was a weak demonstration in Karachi today of about 12 people that was quickly broken up. The streets remain quiet at this time. It’s interesting to note that Hamid Gul, an old-guard ISI agitator behind the scenes, was arrested.
Musharraf has shut down the opposition from the Supreme Court and the Lawyers as his first move, moving on JuI activists, Old-guard ISI, and MMA as his second. This successfully counters his political opposition for the short term, and takes the Chaudry Cousins and their bloc out of play temporarily. It also removes some of the leadership more likely to plan violent action in the cities as well.
In a strange twist both the Army hostages that Fazlullah and the TNSM were holding, as well as the 220 soldiers that Baitullah Mehsud’s Pak Taliban were holding have been released. Fazlullah added insult to injury by giving the released 48 soldiers 500 rupees each after they turned in weapons and signed non-agression statements.
The AQAM forces releasing soldiers is strange indeed – is it because they fear now that the PCO is in place? ( I don’t think they fear for themselves, but constitutional rights protections are suspended – there’s nothing to stop Musharraf from rounding up their friends, relatives and supporters.) Or is it because an accomodation has been reached? (Which is what I think most likely.)