Opposition Figures Scramble, Criticize Amid Pakistan Crackdown

Despite Ban on Public Gatherings, Zardari Insists Pakistan Remains a Vibrant, Functioning Democracy

The imposition of emergency rule across much of Pakistan this week has led to a mixture of responses from opposition figures, ranging from condemnation to warnings and efforts by President Asif Ali Zardari to defend what many are seeing as a rather blatant power grab.

The Pakistani Muslim League-N (PML-N), whose rule in the Punjab Province came to an end when President Zardari declared governor’s rule, remains the loudest and most defiant group despite having so many of its members arrested.

Jamaat-e Islami (JI), Pakistan’s oldest religious party, had several of its members arrested in Sindh today for violating the ban on public gatherings. JI leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad cautioned that the crackdown would only make the government even more unpopular, and told journalists nothing the government can do would prevent them from participating in the Long March, a rally initially aimed at restoring judges ousted by former President Pervez Musharraf and has now become a broad flashpoint for all the opposition parties outraged by the government’s assorted crackdowns.

Imran Khan, the popular sports celebrity turned Tehreek-e Insaf Party chief has gone into hiding, fearing that he will be arrested. Khan has been an outspoken critic of the PPP government and its role in America’s war on terror.

President Zardari seemed not to notice that any of this was going on. Despite a ban on public criticism of his government and the mass arrests of his rivals, Zardari maintained that Pakistan is “a vibrant and functioning democracy” with “an ongoing energetic public discourse.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.