Bloggers on the state of emergency in Pakistan.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 5 2007 6:39 PM

Pervez's Power Play

Bloggers talk about the state of emergency in Pakistan and admire the spectacle of writers on strike.

Pervez's power play: PakistaniPresident Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency Saturday. He also suspended the country's constitution, fired its Supreme Court chief justice, and dispatched police officers throughout the nation.

Jamash at Metroblogging Karachi describes the scene in his city: "Life in the city is (somewhat) normal. 'Somewhat' because there is little traffic on the roads, yesterday too the streets were considerably deserted. Last night after midnight at around 1:30 AM there was a pin drop silence, I went up my roof and there was no sound of traffic on the roads, not horns, not even a bark of the dog. It was very unusual, almost disturbing. and today too the traffic in the city is a bit less than normal and a Fewer people are on the streets. …Karachi is … quite and engulfed in fear and uncertainty."

Blake Hounsell, blogging at Foreign Policy's Passport, runs through  the country's problems: "Before he declared martial law, Musharraf's approval rating had cratered at 21 percent. So, let's see here... We've got rising militancy and a war in neighboring Afghanistan, a hugely unpopular president, multiple insurgencies, and a nuclear state with a history of nuclear proliferation. Some old Iran hands are saying the present situation in Pakistan even reminds them of the last days of the Shah. This could get much, much worse before it gets better."

Dr. Awab Alvi, a Pakistani dentist practicing in Karachi, is critical of Musharraf at Teeth Maestro:  "Those he has arrested are progressive, secular minded people while the terrorists are offered negotiations and ceasefires. …It is not time for the international community to insist on preventive measures, otherwise cleaning up the mess may take decades. …We believe that Musharaf has to be taken out of the equation and a government of national reconciliation put in place. It must be backed by the military. Short of this there are no realistic solutions, although there are no guarantees that this may work."

Brian Ulrich, a Ph.D. student who writes often on foreign policy at American Footprints, considers the reasoning in Musharraf's comparing his movements to Abraham Lincoln's suspension of the Constitution during the Civil War: "What Musharraf fears is not a Bush administration pro-democracy agenda, but rather popular pressure that could make it uncomfortable for the administration to continue to work with Musharraf, as they seem inclined to do. Musharraf's role model is not Lincoln, but Turkey's President Kemal Ataturk.  Musharraf has certainly not tried to secularize Pakistan as forcefully as Ataturk did Turkey, but then Turkey in the 1920's was a very different place from modern Pakistan."

At his blog All Things Pakistan, Adil Najam isn't really that shocked: "[T]he emergency declared by Gen. Musharraf is deeply disturbing, but not really surprising. The horrendous political situation that Gen. Musharraf described in his 'Emergency' speech is, in fact, true. Extremism and violence has gone out of hand. Society is deeply divided. Religion has been high-jacked and is now routinely used to incite violence. …However, none of this is a justification for a suspension of the Constitution and for the declaration of emergency. In fact, all this is damning evidence of government failure. A suspension of the constitution will not and cannot resolve any of these issues. It is more likely to - and has already - made each of these situations even worse."

Read more about Pakistan's state of emergency. For more on Musharraf, read Josh Hammer's profile of the Pakistani leader in the Atlantic. Watch Musharraf defend his actions on Al-Jazeera.

Picket fences: After three months of negotiations with the major studios, the Writers Guild of America went on strike Monday.  It's the first writers strike since 1988.

It's bad news for fans of late-night television, as Alex Pareene notes at Gawker: "The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are both going to repeats—though Jon Stewart has offered to pay two weeks of writer's salaries himself—and poor Amy Winehouse, the real victim in all this, will probably not be making her SNL debut this week, and no one seems clear on what Letterman will be doing, least of all Dave Letterman."

Jon Robin Baitz, who has written for West Wing and Alias, suggests at the Huffington Post that the press  is in cahoots with studios: "Newspapers and local stations also take in vast sums from movie and television ads, so there is a quiet and insistent hesitancy when it comes to being critical of the hand that feeds them. The studios have framed the debate, gotten ahead of it. … The fact that the future livelihood of thousands of families is at stake does not really come into the reporting. The actual income of the majority of writers in the business does not come into the reporting."

Also at HuffPo, screenwriter Howard A. Rodman gets into the finer points of residuals: "One of the things that tides us over during the leaner years is residuals. … But those residuals for things like television syndication are drying up, as syndication, re-runs and the like are replaced by DVDs. …This is why we're asking for four cents more for every DVD. And that's why we're asking that the DVD rate--calculated when … George Michael was in Wham!--not be the determinant of how we're compensated for downloads in this brave new world."

Read more about the writers srike. The Los Angeles Times has a helpful chart explaining how the strike will effect many shows.

Laurel Wamsley, a former Slate intern, is a writer living in Washington, D.C.

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