Musharraf re-elected to autocratic rule and imposition of martial law.

The imposition of martial law is an attempt by Musharraf to have full grip of power to bar his opponents, like Benazir Bhutto, from at least sharing power with him. Musharraf came to power after a coup amid international condemnation. But later he became an important ally of the USA in its fight of terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As time goes by, the imposition of martial law will be overlooked as long as Musharraf continues to serve the interests of his Western allies, esp. the USA.

The statement by Condoleezza Rice that the main priority should be to protect America and protect American lives by continuing to fight against terrorists is a kind of thumbs up to Musharraf’s action as the ends justify the means. What matters to the US is to have a strong man in charge. In view of the turbulent situation in Pakistan, Musharraf looks as the strong man needed by the US to curb the encroachment of the Islamists in this stronghold region of the Islamists. Musharraf knows that he’s still valuable to the US. He’s not under the threat of being let down, so he can confidently continue imposing martial law as it is aimed to crack down on his own opponents like former PM Nawaz Sharif as well the Islamists the major threat to the US presence in the region.

The international community is likely to sit and watch what’s going on in this country. The focus can be mainly on the Commonwealth to see if it will take any measure similar to the expulsion of Pakistan from this organisation. But this will be unlikely as the internal community is seeking détente in view of the other deeper problems like US-Russia disagreement on missile defence, Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear program. Pakistan’s situation is unlikely to be on the agenda of the UN Security Council. So Musharraf will continue to rule as long as the military is behind him abroad and enjoys the tacit or the open support of powerful countries.

Internally, Musharraf having secured a new mandate as a president will move to consolidate his power. Future parliamentary elections will be meaningless as long as the parliament will be powerless in face of emergency laws. As the constitution is suspended, there will be only martial law to govern the country. This can backfire as Islamic extremists will be more intent on further attacks as challenge to this law. What can extinguish the raging political fire in Pakistan is the adaptation of democratic rule that will surely lead to moderation on all sides. Musharraf can repress his opponents through his martial law and loyal soldiers. But he can’t narrow the circle of his opponents which can widen as a response to his individual power.

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