Concern is mounting over the health of John Solecki, an American working for the UNHCR, who was kidnapped from the Pakistani city of Quetta 45 days ago.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
For some months now there has been a steady drumbeat of reports in the media saying that while the United States had made significant breakthroughs in its covert military campaign in Pakistan’s autonomous tribal areas, it could not continue to ignore the vast province of Baluchistan to the south where the Afghan Taliban leadership is based.
Now that President Asif Ali Zardari has agreed to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and offered to challenge a court decision against his rival Nawaz Sharif, is he going to come under pressure to give up his powers to dismiss parliament, another popular demand?
Two years after Iftikhar Chaudhry was first sacked by then President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan government officials said he would be reinstated as Chief Justice after a nationwide protest led by Pakistan’s lawyers.
Lawyers dressed in black suits scuffling with police, several dragged into police vans. Other marching, their arms linked, shouting slogans and holding placards in a peaceful campaign for justice. If you looked at the TV and still pictures of the “long march” launched by the lawyers in a two-year campaign to uphold the freedom and integrity of the judiciary, they seemed to show a vibrant democracy rather than a country teetering on the brink of failure. It’s a face of Pakistan that has all but got buried in recent months, M Reza Pirbhai, a professor of South Asian history at Louisiana University, wrote in Counterpunch.
Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani is much talked about these days as the one national figure who could lean on Pakistan’s warring politicians to back down from a confrontation threatening the stability of the country. The question is over how he would intervene while maintaining a commitment to keep the army out of politics.
Pakistani authorities banned public protests and detained hundreds of lawyers and opposition workers nationwide to prevent them from launching Thursday’s planned “long march” towards the capital Islamabad to force President Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate a former Supreme Court judge.
Maybe this always happens at times of national upheaval. But there is a surprising disconnect between the immediacy of the crisis facing Pakistan as expressed by Pakistani bloggers and the more slow-moving debate taking place in the outside world over the right strategy to adopt towards both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The bombing of the mausoleum of a renowned Pashto mystic poet outside the Pakistani city of Peshawar has darkened the mood further in a nation already numbed by the attack on cricket, its favourite sport, when the Sri Lankan team were targeted in Lahore.