ISLAMABAD, 2 June 2007 — Pakistan’s top army commanders voiced their full support for President Pervez Musharraf yesterday as he struggles with the biggest crisis of his eight-year military rule.
The top brass also took a tough stance on the swelling opposition to Gen. Musharraf’s suspension of the chief justice on March 9, warning of a “malicious campaign against the institutions of state.”
The show of solidarity at a commanders’ meeting in the garrison city of Rawalpindi followed media speculation about splits in the military and about the possible imposition of a state of emergency.
“The corps commanders and principal staff officers of the Pakistan Army affirmed to stand committed for the security of their country under the leadership and guidance of the president,” a military statement said.
“The Pakistan Army is committed to lend full support toward realization of the vision set by the president for a dynamic, progressive and moderate Islamic state,” it said.
The statement said Musharraf “appreciated (the) unstinted support of the participants and assured them that nobody will be allowed to bring instability in the country.” The removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has sparked an increasingly strong pro-democracy movement, as well as violent political clashes in Karachi on May 12 that left more than 40 people dead.
Critics say Musharraf suspended the independent-minded Chaudhry to remove any legal challenge to his bid to stay on as army chief past the end of the year, when the constitution says he is due to hang up his uniform.
Musharraf warned on Wednesday against criticism of the powerful army after Chaudhry’s supporters shouted anti-military slogans at a weekend rally at the Supreme Court in Islamabad.
The judge himself did not directly criticize the president but told his backers that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He is due to attend another rally today in the northwestern city of Abbotabad.
The statement said the army commanders “took serious note of the malicious campaign against institutions of state, launched by vested interests and opportunists who were acting as obstructionist forces to serve their personal interests.” “Any attempt by a small minority to obstruct the aspirations of (the) vast majority would only derail the nation from its path of progress and prosperity,” it added.
The comments follow several government warnings to the media to tone down their coverage of the crisis, including a threat to restrict live coverage of opposition protests.
Television and press groups say they have been under increasing pressure since March, with two television stations coming under attack and three journalists receiving envelopes containing bullets.
Bank Manager Injured in Bomb Attack
A bomb injured a bank manager in northwestern Pakistan yesterday as insurgents fired four rockets at a police station in the same region, damaging its outer walls, police said. Mohammed Rashid, a manager for the state-owned Agriculture Bank of Pakistan in Bannu city, was in his car when the homemade bomb exploded and the device was probably planted inside his vehicle, said Mohammed Rafiq, a local police official.
“The manager is listed in stable condition at a hospital,” Rafiq said. He said police did not know who carried out the attack and that it was being investigated.