March 16, 2007Foreign Affairs

Blackout in Pakistan?

Telephones and internet lines go down. Television programmes go off air.

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Last week, Musharraf’s regime cut off Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry’s television and telephone. Now, it has cut off the rest of the country too.

Musharraf’s much touted liberalism, it turns out, was only as strong as his confidence of holding on to power. Judging from his clumsy reaction, the events following Chief Justice Chaudhry’s refusal to be cowed down must have shaken the General indeed. Editors have been issued veiled threats, television channels have been taken off the air, television programmes pulled, stations raided, hundreds of people taken into custody.

You can, of course, believe that the television channels (and perhaps telecom networks) went down because of technical faults”. Just like you can believe the Gen Musharraf is interested in enlightened moderation.

Note: An earlier version of this post said that telecommunications networks were blocked by authorities. This might not be totally accurate, and services have resumed. However, the official explanation—that digging works in Karachi caused nationwide service disruption, including for cellular services—is not entirely convincing either.

Update: Musharraf claims that the raid on the television station should not have happened and is the result of a conspiracy against him. If he’s not lying to save his skin, and if riot police can be part of the conspiracy, then it might, after all, be the Ides of March.

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