Asma Jahangir: Musharraf has lost his marbles and is targeting progressives

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The situation in the country is uncertain. There is a strong crackdown on the press and lawyers. A majority of the judges of the Supreme Court and four judges of the High Court have not taken their oaths. The Chief Justice is under house arrest (unofficially). The president of the Supreme Court Bar, Aitzaz Ahsan, and two former presidents, Mr Muneer Malik and Tariq Mahmood have been imprisoned for one month under the preventive detention laws.

The president of the Lahore High Court, Ahsan Bhoon, and former bar leader Ali Ahmed Kurd have also been arrested. The police are looking for six other lawyers, including the president of the Peshawar and Karachi bar. The president of the Lahore bar is also in hiding. Scores of political leaders havebeen arrested.

Yesterday, I was put under house arrest for 90 days and I was given a copy of my detention order.

Ironically the President (who has lost his marbles) said that he had to clamp down on the press and the judiciary to curb terrorism. Those he has arrested are progressive, secular- minded people while the terrorists are offered negotiations and ceasefires.

Lawyers and civil society will challenge the government and the scene is likely to get uglier. We want friends of Pakistan to urge the United States administration to stop all support of the unstable dictator, as his lust for power is bringing the country close to a worse form of civil strife. It is now time for the international community to insist on preventive measures, otherwise cleaning up the mess may take decades.

There are already several hundred internally displaced persons and the space for civil society has hopelessly shrunk.

We believe that Musharraf has to be taken out of the equation and a government of national reconciliation put in place. It must be backed by the military. Short of this there are no realistic solutions – although there are no guarantees that this would work.

Asma Jahangir is a leading Pakistani lawyer, head of the Pakistan Commission for Human Rights, and a special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She was heavily involved in the movement for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry earlier this year. Ms Jahangir sent this message from her home in Lahore.

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