Islamabad-- I was giving a talk this afternoon at the Institute for Policy Studies here, which is affiliated to the Jamaat-i Islami. There were two American journalist friends there, both of whom left early. I figured they had another appointment. After my talk during the reception my hosts told me that a prominent Pakistani politician was calling -- someone I know (I'm not giving the name here). We were talking when my interlocutor mentioned that he (Musharraf) had amended the Army Act to apply to civilians. I asked if that meant he would do it if he declared emergency. Came the reply, He has declared emergency!
He did it during my talk. At lunch today another prominent political figure here was very concerned. This man is a leader of the president's own party, but he was in a minority -- he had told the President that declaring an Emergency would be a mistake. Today's Pakistan would not tolerate military rule.
One of my hosts is from Mardan in the Northwest Frontier Province. He reported that "militants" in the area had threatened to suicide-bomb the girls' school his cousin attends if they did not all wear burqas instead of their traditional parda (hijab). The poor families cannot even afford the burqa, but they are afraid. The local people do not know where these "Taliban" are coming from. They consider them extremists -- and these are people who voted for the Islamist parties in the elections five years ago....
So far it looks like the Army has kept the politicians out of Islamabad by arranging for PIA to go on strike on Friday, when they are all in their constituencies. So far it is calm. I'll report as I can.