Focus on Musharraf in Pakistani unrest

May 14, 2007|By New York Times News Service

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A day after political clashes claimed 39 lives in Karachi, analysts said the violence -- and accusations that the government had done little to stop the killings -- had put renewed pressure on the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

News reports said government troops had been in the southern port city but had not acted to separate armed pro-government and opposition groups who were shooting at each other. Dawn, an English-language newspaper in Karachi, said troops had "suddenly disappeared from the troubled spots."

The government has not responded to those claims.

Three more deaths

The unrest eased yesterday as paramilitary personnel patrolled Karachi, the country's financial hub, and provincial leaders banned public gatherings. But three more people died in sporadic clashes, according to hospital personnel.

The violent clashes were set off Saturday by the arrival of Pakistan's suspended Supreme Court chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who had come to address lawyers of the provincial bar association. In March, Musharraf suspended the justice, who was known for his willingness to take on the government, setting off mostly peaceful protests by lawyers, who accused the government of attacking the judiciary's independence. The president accused the justice of a misuse of power and nepotism, charges that Chaudhry denies.

Political crisis

Analysts on said yesterday that the violence in Karachi had significantly worsened the political crisis caused by the justice's suspension and further weakened Musharraf.

"I think he has completely ruined himself," said Rasul Baksh Rais, the head of the department of social sciences at Lahore University of Management Sciences.

"The scenes were brutally contrasting. Young men were dying, collapsing before cameras in Karachi while people were dancing on the beat of drums in front of the national Parliament," Rais said, referring to a state-managed rally arranged by political allies of Musharraf in Islamabad on Saturday evening.

An editorial yesterday in The Daily Times, a leading newspaper in Lahore, said, "The question now is: What course of action is General Musharraf planning to take?"

"The possibility of any compromise to correct the original mistake of removing the CJP has vanished now," the paper said, referring to Chaudhry, adding that "the ante has been upped by the government."

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