What Martial Law Means for Pakistani Families Ali Khan, a law professor at Washburn University in Kansas, comments on how martial law is affecting his friends and family in Pakistan. Meanwhile, former Primer Minister Benazir Bhutto is put under house arrest for the second time in a week.
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What Martial Law Means for Pakistani Families

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What Martial Law Means for Pakistani Families

What Martial Law Means for Pakistani Families

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From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, the view from India - Pakistan's nuclear-armed neighbor.

BRAND: First, the news from Pakistan. Former Prime Mister Benazir Bhutto remains under house arrest in Lahore.

CHADWICK: Despite a government ban, some of her supporters set off on the planned long march from Lahore to Islamabad. They didn't get far.

BRAND: And the Bush administration is sending the number two person at the State Department, that's John Negroponte, on an emergency visit to Pakistan. He will urge President Pervez Musharraf to end the state of emergency and hold open elections.

CHADWICK: NPR's Philip Reeves is in Lahore, Pakistan.

Philip, what do you see? What's going on now?

PHILIP REEVES: Throughout the day, there's been this extraordinary drama going on outside the house in which Benazir Bhutto is staying. She was barricaded in there. She must have expected it would happen throughout the day by the police. They planted a whole lot of trucks in front of the road that leads down to that house. There were riot police there. And we had this extraordinary spectacle of people from her party - in small numbers, it has to be said - turning up on the scene as if they wanted to be arrested.

And in front of the world's cameras the police just as happily carted them off, dumped them into prison vans and took them away. It's all part of a process that Bhutto is engaged in, which is pressuring Musharraf in front of the international community. And I suspect this it's becoming extremely difficult for Musharraf.

CHADWICK: So is there any sense that the police might move on this compound, or are things just static there for Benazir Bhutto?

REEVES: No. This is not like Yasser Arafat when the Israelis were surrounding his compound, when it really was at times quite a dangerous situation. It's actually really quite relaxed there. The TV cameras tend to focus on the one or two moments of confrontation. But essentially it's not a tense situation around her residence. It's a fascinating one. She has been allowed to use her telephone and she's put it to good effect, talking to NPR and also to other networks about her position, which has hardened considerably today.

CHADWICK: She's now calling on President Musharraf not just to give up his army post but to give his presidency as well.

REEVES: Yeah. And this is very significant. I mean, the idea was, when she arrived back in Pakistan last month, that they would negotiate and that she would with him be able to arrange a transition to civilian rule. This is what the U.S. wanted. They want Musharraf to stay. Bush described him as indispensable.

But now Bhutto, at least in her public remarks, seems to have shifted ground. She's saying she wants him to leave. She's saying essentially that she feels that he's lost, you know, his handle on the situation and must go, and that she won't be willing to work underneath him. And so that's a really important political change in the language of this conflict at the very least.

CHADWICK: Phil, you mentioned Benazir Bhutto's efforts to pressure President Musharraf. One thing she was trying today was this convoy of cars that was supposed to drive - this was her long march, she called it - was supposed to drive from Lahore to Islamabad, a journey of about 200 miles. In fact, that convoy did kind of start off earlier today. And I spoke earlier - listen to this; this is a part of a conversation with a newspaper editor, Najam Sethi. Now, his paper is very, very friendly to Benazir Bhutto, but here's what he told me about the convoy.

Mr. NAJAM SETHI (Editor-in-Chief, The Friday Times): They didn't get too far. They started off at about midday. They were stopped. Their leaders were all pulled out of the cars, arrested, and the convoy, for whatever it was, was scattered.

CHADWICK: Phil, that's the story on the convoy that we heard from the editor. What are you hearing in Lahore?

REEVES: We're not sure precisely how large that convoy was. But you know, the basic point, though, is that there is this opposition to Musharraf and it's very much present on the landscape. What's interesting, though, that so far the lawyers have not come out onto the streets to mark Benazir Bhutto's presence and her house arrest.

Now, that's significant because of course one of the things that Musharraf has done since the emergency was imposed is get rid of the chief justice, the same guy that was campaigning around the country after Musharraf made an earlier attempt to get rid of him and he eventually got reinstated, and also many other senior judges in the country. Musharraf has said it's a redline issue for him. He's not going to put the Supreme Court back in place. Many commentators believe that this is because Musharraf was concerned that the Supreme Court would not validate his recent reelection for another term as president.

CHADWICK: NPR's Philip Reeves reporting from Lahore.

Phil, thank you again.

REEVES: You're most welcome.

CHADWICK: And as the state of emergency continues in Pakistan, people in neighboring India are watching, but perhaps not as anxiously as you might think.

BRAND: We're joined now by Pushpesh Pant at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and he's in New Delhi.

Welcome to the program.

Professor PUSHPESH PANT (Jawaharlal Nehru University): Hello.

BRAND: What has been the reaction in the week and a half since the state of emergency was declared in Pakistan? What's been the reaction there in India?

Prof. PANT: Actually, I'm quite surprised by the low level of interest shown by the Indian public at large, and even Indian leadership (unintelligible) what is happening in Pakistan. I think partly the reason is that India has learned to live with a Pakistan without democracy - a Pakistan and the military dictatorship.

And it is quite used to quote/unquote "exciting events" in Pakistan. This - there is a deep feeling that it's all a stage-managed show in Pakistan, whenever a thing of this kind takes place - an exiled leader returns, is given some kind of an opportunity to view his or her views, and things are back again to normal or abnormal. And I think one thing that has contributed to this is the Pakistani cricket being played - playing in India as if nothing has happened back home.

BRAND: The cricketing?

Prof. PANT: And the game of cricket India is some kind of a myth, some kind of ritual, some kind for a popular religion. And I think the Indians feel that if the Pakistani cricket team can come and play, and not worried worry about what is happening at home, things are probably not too bad.

BRAND: Well, what about the sense that if there is growing instability, there is the problem that perhaps nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands. Are Indians concerned about that?

Prof. PANT: As far as Indians are concerned, the nuclear weapons have already fallen in the wrong hands, because they have no legitimately elected government in Pakistan. I'll bet you Indians like the rest of the world do remember that General Pervez Musharraf assumed power after a coup d'etat by dislodging the legitimately elected president of Pakistan. And I think the problem is that (unintelligible) that Pakistan has been responsible for nuclear piracy organized by Dr. A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, in connivance with the Pakistani government and also the - shall I say, it's not complicity, at least approval, tacit approval of the government of United States of America.

BRAND: What do you think the reaction will be in the Indian government or amongst regular Indians to Benazir Bhutto saying today that Musharraf should step down?

Prof. PANT: Well, you see, Musharraf is not that unpopular a man in India because people do believe that Musharraf has been there and things have not gone - gotten down to much worse. But then as I would say that the government of India probably is also reconciled that the Americans would decide who's going to rule Pakistan. Musharraf would either stay or go, not because the people of Pakistan want to do so.

BRAND: So you're saying it's not really in the hands of the Pakistanis, it's in the hands of the United States?

Prof. PANT: No, no. I believe that in this moment reaction has been as mild or as stern as the United States of America. I mean, Indians have expressed concern about what is happening. They have expressed hope that democracy should return. But I think the majority of Indians are really not worried about Pakistan, and we have enough problems on our own at the moment.

BRAND: All right. Well, thank you very much.

Prof. PANT: Thanks you.

BRAND: That's Pushpesh Pant of Jawaharlal Nehru University, speaking to us from New Delhi.

CHADWICK: And we wanted to hear from a Pakistani American today. So we spoke with Ali Khan. He's a law professor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He's a U.S. citizen now. He's been here for more than 30 years, but most of his family is still in Pakistan.

Professor ALI KHAN (Washburn University School of Law): In fact, I am the only one here. My brother is there, my sister is there, my aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces. Everyone is there.


Prof. KHAN: Friends.

CHADWICK: ...what are you hearing from them?

Prof. KHAN: In fact, I just talked to my brother before coming here. He is saying that emergency has not yet reached the ordinary people.

CHADWICK: Does - and what does that mean? That people are going to their jobs and they're going to the market.

Prof. KHAN: People are going to their jobs. Yeah, the markets are open. People are going to their - you know, a lot of my relatives have shops. They're opening their shops. Commerce is going on. So everything is normal except that the courts are mostly shut down.

CHADWICK: But what about the kind of sense of what might happen there? There's this emergency imposed - what does your brother think about that, and what about these, oh, like the call for the convoy from Lahore to Islamabad and the street demonstrations that have gone on?

Prof. KHAN: It seems like so far the protest is confined to what I call the intellectuals and the upper bourgeois classes of Pakistan. I mean, look what is happening. It is the generals and some politicians on one side and then the lawyers and the judges and the media intellectuals and the editors and the journalists, the educated class, on the other side. And the people, they are just watching. You know, people don't want to come into this battle between the higher classes of Pakistan.

CHADWICK: When you say people don't want to...

Prof. KHAN: Yeah.

CHADWICK: ...do you mean people like your brother, people in your family?

Prof. KHAN: Yes. Yes. The ordinary people, you know, who are nonpolitical in the sense that they're not active members of any political party. The engineers, the physicians, the normal people, you know, who are not political.

CHADWICK: Do you understand why they don't want to participate?

Prof. KHAN: Yeah. I think I have a theory, and I just checked with my brother. I think he kind of agrees with it, that people are very skeptical of the leadership which is being offered as an alternative to President Musharraf.

CHADWICK: But is there a sense that the people really can stay out of this? I mean, in two days Mr. Musharraf is supposed to give up his post as leader of the army. There's this state of emergency. There are elections coming in January, which people will or will not participate in. How long can the people hold back?

Prof. KHAN: No, I think the people cannot hold back. But you see, Pakistan is known for public protests. And I'm very, you know, surprised that people have not come on the streets. And that's what I was analyzing, that such a country where people love to protest, they're very emotional people, people who want to express their feelings very openly, they're sitting quietly in their homes. So the question is why? Do they like Musharraf? And the answer is no. They do not like Musharraf at all.

So why are they not coming on the streets? Because they don't know who to follow. I think there's no leader emerging right now who can direct the people and guide the people and say to them, you know, we have a future which would be honest and straightforward and non-militaristic and democratic.

CHADWICK: Ali Khan writes and lectures about Muslim law at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He's a U.S. citizen, but he was born in Pakistan and he still has a lot of family and friends there.

Ali, thank you.

Prof. KHAN: Thank you very much.

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