02 March, 2021

A General Outflanked

Right-wing street power has Musharraf's liberalism in retreat

A General Outflanked

Gen Pervez Musharraf's liberal image is coming apart at the seams. Pakistan's chief executive suffered a setback when his government succumbed to pressure from fundamentalist parties over proposed changes in the controversial Blasphemy Law. And it was a strike - the first large-scale protest against the junta - called by the religious parties that forced Musharraf to backtrack. He now intends inviting the right-wing parties for talks on their demands which include declaring Friday a weekly holiday and incorporating a number of laws pertaining to religion in the Provisional Constitutional Order (pco), which was enforced soon after Musharraf assumed power.

Musharraf's climbdown came after Pakistan's major cities witnessed a complete shutdown in response to a strike called by the Milli Yakjehti Council - an alliance of religious parties - on May 19. The strike coincided with the three-day small traders' strike against the proposed general sales tax. Musharraf, while claiming that he won't be cowed by such pressure tactics, also seems to be scared of the "Pakistani...

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