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December 14, 2007

Pakistan: 'Twas the Night before End of Emergency Rule
Posted by Brian Katulis

On the eve of the end of emergency rule, Pakistan is heading into a four week election campaign fraught with great uncertainties. 

Intelligence agencies are warning of a new round of suicide attacks.  Opposition parties are already complaining of electoral fraud, with some boycotting the January 8th elections and others planning to contest and then protest the results.  And a new poll indicates that President Musharraf's popularity has plummeted since the imposition of emergency rule last month, a view confirmed in a range of interviews with political party leaders, human rights activists, and journalists in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi.

For longer pieces on the situation, see posts on U.S. competing interests in Pakistan, how opposition activists marked International Human Rights Day earlier this week under emergency rule, whether Pakistan is the real "central front" in the fight against terrorists, and how the coming months in Pakistan are pivotal for making a course correction in the so-called "global war on terrorism."


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from Pakistan Daily Times:
ISLAMABAD: A stacked judiciary, a cowed media and a toothless Election Commission – Pakistan’s upcoming election looks flawed even before the campaign has gotten into full swing. While it is shaping up to be more competitive than the last poll five years ago, a state of emergency imposed by President Pervez Musharraf has already tilted the field in favour of his supporters, observers say. If fraud is unchecked, analysts warn, the South Asian nation could descend into deep turmoil, dashing Western hopes for a government moderate and stable enough to turn back a rising tide of Islamic extremism.

“There is no level playing field,” said Sarwar Bari, head of the Free and Fair Election Network, a Pakistani group monitoring the run-up to the parliamentary vote. Conditions clearly favour the pro-Musharraf ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim Leaque (PML), Bari said.

Musharraf insists the January 8 ballot will be fair and accuses the opposition of girding for defeat. “This is a clear indication of their preparation for defeat,” Musharraf told CNN last weekend. “Now when they lose, they’ll have a good rationale, that it is all rigged, it is all fraud. In Pakistan, the loser always cries.”\12\15\story_15-12-2007_pg7_48

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