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January 15, 2008

Shoot The Rioters: Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf wants peaceful elections on February 18th. In fact, he wants them so badly that he'll kill anyone who gets in the way of peaceful elections. Musharraf warned that any attempt to disrupt the parliamentary elections through rioting would have deadly consequences for the provocateurs:

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said troops will be ordered to shoot anyone trying to disrupt general elections due on February 18.

The elections are meant to complete a transition to civilian rule and allies of nuclear-armed Pakistan hope they will promote stability after months of political turmoil and rising militant violence. ...

Speaking to businessmen in Karachi, the country's commercial capital, Musharraf said the government would not allow riots to occur again.

"Let me assure you we are going to instruct the rangers and army to shoot miscreants during elections," the official Associated Press of Pakistan quoted him as saying late on Monday. "We will not allow this activity to happen again," he said.

Musharraf may have more standing on this than first blush. Pakistanis fear poll violence and may not participate in numbers large enough to establish the credibility of the elections. Musharraf needs a substantial turnout to legitimize the incoming parliament, especially in the eyes of the global community, even though it will almost certainly fall into the control of one of th opposition parties regardless.

In order to stop riots from gaining strength, Musharraf will have almost no other option but to order fire onto the organizers. The threat of that tactic, along with the expected heavy presence of the military on the streets, may discourage them from getting organized in the first place. The deterrent value of a massive security presence could help calm the streets for the election.

Of course, this depends on whether Musharraf's definition of "riot" matches our own. It could just as easily be intended to intimidate Musharraf's opposition from engaging in normal political assembly. It wouldn't be the first time that Musharraf defined rallies as riots, after all, and this could easily be seen as a threat to suppress the opposition vote.


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