Far from protecting Pakistan from extremists General Musharaff’s attack on democracy is making them far more dangerous.
The most perceptive and alarming comment on emergency rule in Pakistan has come from the former cricketer Imran Khan: "When you stop all legal and constitutional ways of people challenging [the president], then the only ones who challenge him are people with a gun". Pakistan is in danger of becoming the new Iran where the closing down of democracy leads to the suppression of liberal and reformist movements and leaves the way clear for a takeover by Islamist extremists.
Anyone in any doubt as to whether emergency rule is aimed at keeping out the militants or keeping Musharaff in power need only look at who the victims of the crackdown have been. We have seen lawyers beaten by riot police, judges under house arrest and the mass detention of opposition activists with no Islamist links. The Taliban by contrast are largely unaffected as they are safely ensconced in their strongholds in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
Religious extremists by and large fare better when opposition to the government is outlawed because they can meet and organise in places of worship in a way that their secular rivals cannot. If Musharaff pushes ahead with his desperate attempt to cling to power, he will most likely find that his main rival for power will soon not be Benazir Bhutto but Mullah Omar.
The possibility of an extremist take over in a country with a large stock of nuclear weapons is too awful to countenance and every pressure needs to be brought on Musharaff to restore democracy.