For people not familiar with Pakistani politics, the recent uproar and attention in the news about General Musharraf's imposition of martial law can seem confusing, to say the least. While opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is being painted in a positive light by most media giants, her record of human rights violations and corruption is vastly ignored. (See William Darlymple's views on Bhutto and this blog entry on Bhutto's era of corruption.) Meanwhile, pro-democracy advocates and lawyers are being arrested:
Since November 3, the police have violently suppressed peaceful protests by lawyers across Pakistan. Protests have taken place in the federal capital, Islamabad, the four provincial capital cities of Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta, and in the city of Multan in southern Punjab. In each city, police have beaten protestors with batons and used tear gas to disperse them.
Most of those detained are being held without charge. Hundreds of lawyers are being held under terrorism charges without any factual basis. Treason charges also have been instituted against some. Almost two-thirds of Pakistan's senior judges remain under house arrest. (Via Human Rights Watch)
It's a hard task to gain perspective on Pakistan with some sense of historical continuity. We'll continue to link to significant articles about this issue, but here are some links to start with: Pakistanpolitics.net is a great, frequently-updated source run by various Pakistani lawyers, for those looking for alternative, intelligent commentary on the issue. Also, note this timeline of events in the Guardian which provides an accurate and succinct summary of the crisis in Pakistan, starting all the way from March.
And if you're a lawyer, please ask your bar association to issue a statement against the unjust treatment of Pakistani lawyers. Here's a list of bar associations in the U.S. that have already issued statements and are planning events in support of their colleagues in Pakistan.