Trouble in Pakistan

Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan declared a state of emergency and essentially shut down the country by ousting the Supreme Court Chief Justice and shutting down the media and phone lines:

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan’s constitution and deployed troops in the capital Saturday, declaring that rising Islamic extremism had forced him to take emergency measures. He also replaced the nation’s chief justice and blacked out the independent media that refused to support him.

Authorities began rounding up opposition politicians, cut phone lines in Islamabad and took all but state television off air despite calls from Washington and other Western allies not to take authoritarian measures.

The U.S. called for Musharraf to restore democracy. However, the Pentagon said the emergency declaration does not affect U.S. military support for Pakistan and its efforts in the war on terrorism. Britain said it was deeply concerned.

Musharraf’s leadership is threatened by an increasingly defiant Supreme Court, the reemergence of political rival and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and an Islamic movement that has spread to the capital. Analysts said the measures Saturday may only postpone his political demise.

In a televised address, Musharraf, looking somber and composed and wearing a black tunic rather than his usual military fatigues, said Pakistan was at a “dangerous” juncture.

“The extremism has even spread to Islamabad, and the extremists are taking the writ of the government in their own hands, and even worse they are imposing their obsolete ideas on moderates,” he said.

Musharraf’s order allows courts to function but suspends some fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, including freedom of speech. It also allows authorities to detain people without informing them of the charges.

Musharraf replaced the chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry–who had emerged as the main check on his power–before a crucial Supreme Court ruling on his future as president. His emergency order accused some judges of “working at cross purposes with the executive” and “weakening the government’s resolve” to fight terrorism.

So which is worse, Musharraf imposing forming a coup and imposing martial law to protect his presidency or radical Islamists getting control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons?

Hot Air has followed this story since it first broke this morning.

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