Saturday, November 3, 2007

Inside Pakistan During State of Emergency

The declaration of emergency came quietly.

Within hours those numbers would grow. When the declaration was made official, hundreds of police in riot gear gathered in front of President Pervez Musharraf's palace, the parliament building and the Supreme Court.

Steel and cement barriers were hastily put in place outside the buildings, independent local media outlets and major hotels. Once the police were in place, we watched several hundred paramilitary forces outside the palace disappear into a tree lined area leading up to the palace. Those forces would be called in if police were unable to handle the situation.

But very few civilians gathered outside the buildings: Life in the city seemed quite normal. Shops were open, and traffic was moving. People seemed oblivious to what was happening.

We were in an incredibly unique position watching this unfold. I had long planned to accompany Adm. William Fallon, who is the head of Central Command, on a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan this week. And he had long planned meetings with President Pervez Musharraf. No one had any idea when the trip was scheduled that this would be the weekend that Musharraf would declare a state of emergency.

On Friday, I had a scheduled interview with Adm. Fallon after his meeting, but when the admiral returned from his meetings, it was clear that the session had gone far longer than planned and that things had not gone well.

Fallon warned Musharraf not to make a declaration of emergency, but Musharraf told the admiral he was going ahead with it anyway.

Fallon, it turned out, was the last U.S. official to meet with Musharraf before the declaration. But other U.S. officials had been trying to talk Musharraf out of it as well.

Fallon continued on with his prepared schedule. On Friday night, he attended a dinner with the newly named Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, and senior officers at Army headquarters.

I attended the dinner as well. It was very formal, and no one was saying a word about what was about to happen. After the dinner, a Pakistani army band performed, Fallon and the general shook hands, and the admiral headed off.

Just hours after Fallon left Pakistan this morning for Afghanistan, Musharraf made his move. I changed plans and did not go onto Afghanistan with the admiral, having confirmed last night for "World News" that Musharraf was on the verge of declaring an emergency.

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