U.S. told to de­nounce Pak­istan, force Mushar­raf to quit

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Sharon Behn

The for­mer head of the Pak­istan Bar As­so­ci­a­tion who faces ar­rest if he re­turns home, on Nov. 14 called on the United States and the Pak­istani army to with­draw sup­port from em­bat­tled Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf.

“The United States should not com­pro­mise its sta­tus — it should only sup­port lib­erty, the rule of law,” Mo­ham­mad Akram Sheikh told edi­tors and re­porters at The Wash­ing­ton Times.

He said Deputy Sec­re­tary of State John D. Ne­gro­ponte, who was ex­pected in Pak­istan on Nov. 17, “should pub­licly an­nounce he is not sup­port­ing Mr. Mushar­raf.”

“With­draw­ing recog­ni­tion of Gen­eral Mushar­raf will solve our prob­lems,” said Mr. Sheikh, who said his house and of­fice were searched by au­thor­i­ties be­fore he left Pak­istan for the United States.

Mr. Sheikh also called on Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary to with­draw its sup­port of Gen. Mushar­raf, who took power in a 1999 coup and still holds the ti­tle of army chief.

The army, he said, “should take an in­sti­tu­tional de­ci­sion to tell him not to in­volve them in pol­i­tics.” If it took such a stance, said Mr. Sheikh, Gen. Mushar­raf would be forced to step down.

Po­lice on Nov. 14 ar­rested cricket leg­end and op­po­si­tion leader Im­ran Khan and later charged him un­der anti-ter­ror­ism laws af­ter he emerged from hid­ing to join a stu­dent protest, press re­ports from Pak­istan said.

He was picked up as for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Be­nazir Bhutto, who is un­der house ar­rest, tried to join with ex­iled op­po­si­tion fig­ure, Nawaz Sharif, and forge a united front against Gen. Mushar­raf.

Like Mrs. Bhutto, Mr. Sharif served two terms as prime min­is­ter, and they head Pak­istan’s two largest op­po­si­tion par­ties. Mr. Sharif, who was over­thrown by Gen. Mushar­raf in a 1999 coup, was ex­iled to Saudi Ara­bia.

Con­cerned about the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval in Pak­istan, Switzer­land said yes­ter­day that it had sus­pended ex­port per­mits for anti-air­craft sys­tems to the coun­try.

The Euro­pean Union called for an end to the state of emer­gency, but — like the United States — stopped short of cut­ting aid, the Reuters news agency said.

Mr. Sheikh was one of the lawyers to take a case on Sept. 5 to the Supreme Court to des­ig­nate Gen. Mushar­raf as in­el­i­gi­ble to be the coun­try’s pres­i­dent.

Thou­sands of Pak­istani lawyers have been ar­rested since Gen. Mushar­raf sus­pended the con­sti­tu­tion and de­clared a state of emer­gency on Nov. 3.

Gen. Mushar­raf on Nov. 14 told the As­so­ci­ated Press that he ex­pected to step down as army chief by the end of this month and be­gin a pres­i­den­tial term as a civil­ian. He warned that Pak­istan risked chaos if he gave into op­po­si­tion de­mands that he re­sign. He also ac­cused Mrs. Bhutto of fu­el­ing the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

State De­part­ment spokesman Sean McCor­mack wel­comed the pres­i­dent’s pledge to take off his uni­form but con­tin­ued to press the Pak­istani leader to lift the state of emer­gency.

“Given the cur­rent cir­cum­stance, it’s hard to imag­ine hav­ing a free and fair elec­tion,” Mr. McCor­mack said.

Gen. Mushar­raf has de­fended his de­ci­sion to im­pose emer­gency rule as the only way to quash ter­ror­ism and rein in an out-of-con­trol ju­di­ciary.

Mr. Sheikh told The Times prior to head­ing to a sol­i­dar­ity demon­stra­tion by U.S. lawyers in front of the U.S. Supreme Court that 20,000 lawyers had been ar­rested since the crack­down be­gan.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials have said 2,500 peo­ple, in­clud­ing lawyers have been de­tained.

Hun­dreds of Wash­ing­ton lawyers walked un­der sunny skies from a plaza in front of a Li­brary of Congress an­nex to the Supreme Court in a show of sol­i­dar­ity with Pak­istani col­leagues.

“I felt com­pelled to sup­port those Pak­istani lawyers who go out each day know­ing they will be beaten and bru­tal­ized,” said J.E. McNeil, who said she typ­i­cally avoided such demon­stra­tions.

“At the be­gin­ning of Nazi Ger­many, peo­ple did not stand up. In Pak­istan, the lawyers are stand­ing up and say­ing ‘no’ — it makes me proud to be a lawyer,” she said.

The Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, which spon­sored the rally, has sent a let­ter to Gen. Mushar­raf — with copies to Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice and the U.S. Am­bas­sador to Pak­istan Anne Pat­ter­son — ex­press­ing its con­cern about the events in Pak­istan.

The let­ter, dated Nov. 6, urged Gen. Mushar­raf “to re­store ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence in Pak­istan, heed the rul­ings of the Supreme Court and other ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties, and to leave lawyers and hu­man rights ad­vo­cates free to do their vi­tal work in de­fense of the rule of law.”

Wil­lis Wit­ter con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Rod Lamkey Jr. / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Suited up for a fight: Mo­ham­mad Akram Sheikh, for­mer head of the Pak­istan Bar As­so­ci­a­tion (cen­ter), joined Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts out­side the Supreme Court in Wash­ing­ton on Nov. 14 to protest Pak­istan’s crack­down on its ju­di­ciary.

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