Army Paratroopers patrol Islamabad, following
President Musharraf's declaration of a state of
emergency (Warrick Page/ Getty Images)
Pakistan, with U.S. backing, trades semblance of democracy for semblance of order in militarized provinces
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency , declared martial law and suspended the country's constitution, as of this morning.
Although little news surrounding the decision has been released, it is clear that the United States and the goals of the "war on terror" within and beyond Pakistan underwrote the extraordinary measure. As the Asia Times reported, U.S. CENTCOM Commander Admiral William J. Fallon visited Pakistan on Thursday to discuss how to forestall complete revolt in Pakistan's radicalized provincial areas. An attempt to create a power-sharing agreement between former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf ended badly, when suicide bombers attempted to assassinate Bhutto.
An anonymous official speaking to the Asia Times last week called this moment, "a major crossroads at which Washington will have to approve an all-powerful government, even at the cost of democracy."
The U.S. has never declared Pakistan as a front in its war on terrorism, despite that country's pivotal place as a safe haven for the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This trick of rhetoric has permitted the U.S. to sweep complexities under the reassuring cover language of "alliance," including the fact that the Taliban control significant portions of the North West Frontier province. Nor has the low level war between the Pakistani army, sponsored by the U.S. military, and Islamist militants in the region been acknowledged.