Rather than commiserate for an hour on a lead in, tonight I will just launch into the news.
Today the Pakistani National Assembly dissolved, it was historic in that this is the first time a National Assembly in Pakistan has served its full five year term. The assembly was replaced by a Musharraf-appointed caretaker government. The other parties fell out of the negotiations to set up the caretaker government over the PCO order that established emergency rule.
Musharraf continues to promise that he will resign as Chief of Army Staff and remove the uniform (Wardi) as soon as the newly sworn in justices of the Musharraf Supreme Court clear him legally as duly-elected President of Pakistan. Today is also the day that Musharraf is officially supposed to resign, and if the Constitution were in effect, his holding of both offices past midnight Islamabad time would be unconstitutional.
Foreign pressure is mounting against him, and against this backdrop he’s sent the real army as opposed to Frontier Corps to Swat to quell the rising insurrection there. This after “Radio Maulana”, or Mullah Fazlullah has taken over six provinces with the FC troops melting and surrendering their arms to him as quick as he advanced.
Not much reporting is coming from behind the Taliban advance, so it’s unknown if the “Eagle Force” campaign against crime with Sharia justice is resulting in more beheadings and amputations. The Mullah did eliminate his key FM radio rival, proving who the “boss-jock of Swat” is for the moment. The area is purely tribal/medieval now, traveling there would be like going upriver to meet Kurtz.
The Army has started an offensive, here’s the report on that:
MINGORA: Around 33 militants, two soldiers and five civilians were killed as army helicopters continued targeting Taliban positions in various areas of Swat for the third consecutive day on Wednesday.
Separately, eight military personnel were injured as unidentified miscreants targeted their convoy with a remote-controlled bomb in Batkhela.
Military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP that 17 militants were killed when gunship helicopters attacked their vehicle, while the remaining 16 were killed in separate clashes. Six loyalists of rebel cleric Maulana Fazlullah were eliminated as they tried to free four colleagues that had been arrested by security forces near Saidu Sharif Airport, Arshad said, adding that two soldiers died in the clash. The military spokesman said that another four militants were killed in Hazara village. “We will make sure that the militants are completely wiped off before we end the operation,” he vowed.
Troops also arrested four militants carrying radio sets and grenades, Arshad said, reported AFP.
Meanwhile Dawn is reporting that the “miltants” are gaining strength in Swat, bolstered by 500 — 800 “foreign Militants” and driven by the “MMA’s constant appeasement of Maulana Fazlullah.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is now getting interesting. In other worries, the NATO forces in Afghanistan are working contingency plans in case key supply routes get cut during the fighting in Pakistan, and they also said that they thought that Pakistan’s nukes “were secure”.
Bhutto is now openly calling for President Musharraf to step down from both offices, this from house arrest. The house arrest is in light of the planned protest “long march” which under the PCO is illegal — and in light of intel indicating that suicide bombers would once more try to make another Bhutto a martyr.
She has also closed ranks with Imran Khan, the popular cricket-player turned Politico of PTI, which has ties to the student branches of Jamaat Islamayeh. He’s been organizing student protests against the PCO, but was arrested.. freed… arrested… freed depending on whose rumor you follow.
There are pictures of him being tossed in a van by JI-Talaba, but … some blog commenters say they are his friends. more to come on this I am sure. (Imran also demonstrated against Bush, in the Quran desecration marches, and with Islamists of the MMA often in the past.) There’s been bubbling dissension between many student groups and JI bubbling undersurface for months now, and I hope that inter-group rioting does not start on the campus’.
Meanwhile Bhutto’s niece has launched another polemic screed against her with the media, something she is known for doing (the last one I was quite against – basically she blamed Bhutto for the deaths caused by suicide bombers who attacked her motorcade — the same twisted warped logic that continually excuses the real problem and the real extremists in Pakistan.)
There’s also been sporadic rioting in Karachi, and reports of PPP gangs firing on Police.
Meanwhile the police have arrested between 5,000 and 13,000 PPP leaders depending on whose reports you believe. Not much is being heard from PML-N, which is strange.
Against this backdrop Parliamentary elections are sheduled for Monday.
More on the protests at Metroblogging Islamabad; Lawhawk has coverage of what Bhutto’s niece said.
This report is comprised of news compiled from Daily Times Pakistan, Pakistan Observer, Dawn, and Frontier Post.