General Strike Paralyzes Pakistan By TARIQ ALI
Sixty years old this August, Pakistan has been under de facto military rule for exactly half of its life. Military leaders have usually been limited to a ten-year cycle: Ayub Khan (1958-69), Zia-ul-Haq (1977-89). The first was removed by a nation-wide insurrection lasting three months. The second was assassinated. According to this political calendar, Pervaiz Musharraf still has another year and a half to go, but events happen.
On 9 March this year the President suspended the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Unlike some of his colleagues, the Judge in question, Iftikhar Chowdhry, had not resigned at the time of the coup, but like previous Supreme Courts, had acquiesced to the bogus 'doctrine of necessity' that is always used to judicially justify a military take-over. He was not known for judicial activism and the charges against him are related to a ' corrupt misuse of his office', but its hardly a secret that Chowdhry's recent judgements against the Government on a number of key issues, including the rushed privatisation of the Karachi Steel Mills in Karachi, the demand that 'disappeared' political activists be produced in court and taking rape victims seriously, panicked Islamabad. Might this turbulent judge go so far and declare the military presidency unconstitutional? Paranoia set in.