|Asia News Digest
Musharraf Defies Washington, Declares Emergency
Nov. 3 (EIRNS)Despite a last-minute telephone appeal by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency today. He thereby prevented a crucial Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent Presidential election win, amid rising militant violence.
"The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order," a newscaster said on the state-run TV channel.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and eight other judges refused to endorse the provisional constitutional order issued by the President. Paramilitary troops and police surrounded the Supreme Court in Islamabad, an AFP reporter said. A leading Pakistani lawyer and opposition figure, Aitzaz Ahsan, said he had been detained after Musharraf invoked emergency powers.
The government blocked transmissions of private news channels in the capital, Islamabad, and other cities. Shahzad Iqbal, an official at a cable TV news provider in Islamabad, said authorities were blocking transmissions of private news channels in Islamabad and in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Residents of Karachi said their cable TV was off the air.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who went to Dubai on Nov. 1 for personal reasons, boarded a flight back to Pakistan, and is reported to be at Karachi airport. According to her spokesman, she was already in the plane when the emergency was declared. There are reports that she will not be allowed to disembark in Pakistan.
The immediate fallout of the Musharraf's move is the cancellation of the January general elections. That would create serious problems with Washington, since it was the Bush Administration which pushed for the elections, and pushed for Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan to share power with the military.
For Musharraf, it was a calculated risk. But Musharraf knows that Washington has to depend on the Pakistani army in order to stay in Afghanistan. Musharraf and the Pakistani army also believe that they cannot afford to share power with the politicians, with the security situation as dangerous as it is today.
Another Suicide Bomber Targeted Musharraf
Oct. 30 (EIRNS)Despite intense security measures undertaken to protect Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, a suicide bomber apparently slipped into Pakistan's garrison town, Rawalpindi, and blew himself up close to the President's office and the senior army officials' residence. Musharraf was believed to have been in the office at the time of the attack, but was not injured. Private television channels said the attack occurred as Musharraf was meeting with top officials to discuss the security situation, following a spate of recent attacks.
"It was a suicide attack. The area is sensitivewe don't know what the exact target was. Seven people were killed," Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid told AFP.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, herself a target of a massive bomb attack in Karachi on the night of Oct. 18, said she would address a public meeting in Rawalpindi next month. "I will go to Rawalpindi despite the bomb blast that occurred there today and will hold a public meeting on Nov. 9, as per the party's decision," Bhutto told reporters on Oct. 30.
Pakistan Crisis May Slow the Get-Iran Crowd
Nov. 2 (EIRNS)Although the Iran crisis was discussed during U.S. CENTCOM commander Adm. William J. Fallon's meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Nov. 1 in Islamabad, it is evident that the rapidity with which Pakistan's and Afghanistan's security situation has deteriorated during the last couple of weeks, that the crisis has forced Pentagon to focus on Pakistan, and veer away from Iran, at least momentarily. That became somewhat clearer when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out on Nov. 1 that the U.S. military has noticed a decline in Iran-linked bombs in Iraq.
The rapid deterioration of Pakistan's security situation on its border with Afghanistan forced Fallon to come to Islamabad. It is likely that the U.S. troops, with the full cooperation of President Musharraf, will make a sweep through Pakistan's tribal areas and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) with the intent to secure the area by eliminating the anti-U.S. and anti-Musharraf militants. Pakistani media reported that in the past three days, Musharraf has held several high-level meetings that included all four provincial chief ministers. The discussions centered on the issue of extraordinary powers. It is likely that Fallon will give the nod to Musharraf to impose emergency rule, in light of the precarious security situation.
U.S. Ambassador Woos Indian Opposition to Nuke Deal
Oct. 30 (EIRNS)During the Cold War days, whenever the U.S. ambassador in Delhi was meeting an opposition figure, it was taken for granted that Washington was pushing something not desired by New Delhi. How things have changed since! Now, Washington has deployed the U.S. ambassador to India, David Mulford, a banker, at the behest of India's Manmohan Singh-led government, to woo the opposition that is trying to stall the U.S.-India nuclear deal, endorsed both by Washington and New Delhi.
Almost simultaneous with a call from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, demanding that India tie up its end of the deal before January 2008, Mulford met with leaders of the principal opposition group, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to explain the importance of the deal in the context of U.S.-India relations. Although BJP president Rajnath Singh told Mulford that "it would not be possible for the Bharatiya Janata Party to accept the 123 agreement on the India-United States nuclear deal in its present form," on the very same day, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with the BJP's top political leader, L.K. Advani, at the latter's residence.
Also active in the fray is U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, who is visiting India. He had promised the media that he would not talk about the nuclear deal during the trip. And, yet, on Oct. 29, Paulson was in Kolkata (Calcutta), the bastion of India's Communists, who happen to be the most vocal opponents of the deal, explaining to them the "finer points of benefits" that the deal would usher in.
Chinese Party Congress Lays Out Program for Hu's 'New Deal'
Nov. 1 (EIRNS)In discussions with a Chinese scholar working at a U.S. think tank, EIR noted that the latest Communist Party Congress had indicated something of a "Rooseveltian thrust." The political report of President and party leader Hu Jintao, the real basis of the Congress's discussion, was focused less on simply talking about maintaining high rates of growth, and more on improving the standards of living of the populationfor instance, the need for medical insurance, public education for the broad masses in the countryside, affordable housing, a social safety net, and dealing with the very real environmental problems that "hothouse" development has brought with it. Hu encapsulated this in the slogan of a "scientific view of economic development."
While these issues are not new for the period in which Hu has been general secretary of the party, they have been made the prime focus of the Congress, and the party constitution has been amended to reflect these issues. The scholar agreed. "People have started to call it Hu's 'New Deal,'" he said. While the debate reflected the influence of the party's left, which complained that the rapid economic growth was at the cost of the great mass of the people, and the right, which wanted less state control over economic decisions, the party leadership had found a middle position. The scholar also noted that among the Hong Kong analysts, there was much "chatter" about how the party leadership was reading the Roosevelt biography, a rumor which he thought might well have some substance to it. "The Party is talking about the 'three mountains' that have to be overcome," he said. "These mountains are education, housing, and medical care."