November 3, 2007Foreign AffairsSecurity

Musharraf declares martial law. What next?

Extracts from our September 2007 assessment

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Scenario 2 - Musharraf ruling under martial law. Musharraf would impose martial law after running out of options to remain both president and army chief. The higher judiciary would be required to re-take their oaths of allegiance, and those refusing to do so would dropped from the Bench. The federal parliament and the provincial assemblies would be suspended and Musharraf would seek to govern through the nazims, or local government officials elected on non-party basis. The Army would be further entrenched in power, occupying key positions in Musharraf’s cabinet as well as in the bureaucracy. Neither Bhutto nor Sharif would be allowed to return to Pakistan, and a crackdown would put political and civil society leaders under arrest.

Imposition of martial law will precipitate an immediate political crisis: popular opposition to Musharraf is likely to take the shape of general strikes and street protests, causing martial law administrators to employ strong repressive measures. Criminal and violent elements — from political party activists to sectarian groups — are likely to use the breakdown of law & order to engage in acts of violence and criminality. While the Army could possibly employ even greater force against insurgents in Balochistan, there is an even chance that the BLA might be able to retaliate by carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities. The Army will find it even harder to trade off having to carry out operations in the tribal areas and retaining US support.

The imposition of martial law will plunge Pakistan into its deepest political crisis since 1971, when the civil war led to the secession of its eastern wing. The Army itself is likely to come under attack from various quarters leading to large numbers of desertions and mutinies by units sent to tribal areas. While there the chances of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into unauthorised hands is remote, it is possible that nuclear material and technology may be stolen. It is almost certain that Pakistan will witness large scale capital flight, drying of foreign investment and disruptions to the economy. Moreover, the turmoil in Pakistan is likely to spill over into the region in the form of terrorist attacks in India, strengthening of the Taleban in Afghanistan and could even extend to the China’s Xinjiang province.

Update:Glenn Kessler talks to several American experts on Pakistan. Xenia Dormandy gives Musharraf six more months.

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