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Anger & apathy at ‘donkey’ decision

Rawalpindi, Nov. 4 (AP): Pakistanis met General Pervez Musharraf’s decision to seize emergency powers with a mixture of anger and apathy.

“Pakistan is bad because of one person: Musharraf. He has ruined our country,” said factory worker Faisal Sayed, blaming the general for everything from high inflation to killing fellow Muslims in the name of fighting terror.

CLAMPDOWN
Some of those arrested since the emergency
Hamid Gul, former intelligence chief
Javed Hashmi, PML-N chief
Aitzaz Ahsan, lawyer
Qadir Magsi, APDM leader

On the grimy streets of this garrison city, home to Musharraf’s military headquarters, anger at the President is palpable.

Diners in curry houses and hotels shook their heads, struggling to comprehend his decision.

Musharraf told the country yesterday he had no choice but to impose emergency laws — just days before the Supreme Court was expected to rule on his future as President. He immediately dismissed the judges and brought in replacements.

“He did not have to do this,” said 40-year-old Zulfikar Ali, manager of a run-down hotel near Rawalpindi’s bus station.

Wagging his finger at a small television that he and his friends had crowded around to watch Musharraf address the nation, Ali cried: “He’s a donkey! The Supreme Court was doing good things for the people, and this is what he did.”

To many in Pakistan, Musharraf’s biggest mistake since seizing power in a 1999 coup has been his support of the US-led war on terror. In the past week, more than 100 people have been killed in clashes between government forces and militants in the northwestern Swat valley.

“God knows what’s going to happen to our country now. Musharraf is not good. He has killed so many people in Pakistan,” said 18-year-old Mohammad Qasim.

In Islamabad, armed police and paramilitary troops swiftly poured into the streets.

Khalid Ranja, a former minister and member of Musharraf’s ruling party, pleaded in vain with troops to let him reach his official lodgings near the parliament.

Ranja said he backed Musharraf. “It was needed because of the blasts everywhere. No one was feeling safe,” he said, standing outside a barbed wire blockade.

The crisis drew a more cynical response among Pakistan’s legions of poor, for whom the country’s strong economic growth — Musharraf’s proudest boast — is equated with soaring rents and food prices.

“What’s the point of talking about this'” asked Togul Khan, a 38-year-old day labourer waiting to get hired at a dusty Islamabad street corner. “The politicians have lifted Pakistan into the sky and spun it round before bringing it crashing down to earth — but nothing will change for us.”

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