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Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan: The view from cyberspace

The debate has unfolded on the Web rather than in the press

While the new military rulers in Pakistan do not face much opposition to their coup from the country's press, in the anonymity of the Internet dissent is being voiced.

Pakistan in crisis
An article posted by a writer who identifies himself as General Pervaz Musharraf's son has sparked a heated exchange.

Bilal Musharraf's article 'He had no Choice!' has been published on, an internet magazine which devotes itself to Pakistani affairs.

[ image: Gen Musharraf:
Gen Musharraf: "Effort never to abuse his influence"
"My father is a self-made man and I wish to state this up front that he has made a conscious effort never to abuse his influence for personal gain," the author writes.

"This day was not envisioned. I never thought there would be such unanimous consensus within the military, amongst the people of Pakistan, and amongst the Pakistanis abroad, behind one cause.

"The cause being pure and unadulterated reforms!

"I honestly feel that what we are witnessing is the culmination of a collective yearning of the overwhelming majority of 150 million people," Mr Musharraf writes.

Question of identity

It is difficult to assess whether the author of the letter is in fact Gen Musharraf's son.

Very little is known about the general, but he is married with two children, a son and a daughter.

Authors only have to provide an e-mail address to the editors of the Website, but is not normally revealed to other readers.

Most contributors to the site agree with the article, but many also urge caution.

[ image: The press generally agrees with the coup]
The press generally agrees with the coup
"The current situation is not entirely unique," reads one anonymous response.

"General Zia Ul-Haq seized power in 1977 with initially the same objectives. Unfortunately he and his cronies developed a taste for it."

'Economic problems'

Zain A Khan warns against the economic implications of the coup.

"The best choice for your father was to go home instead of taking unconstitutional decisions and putting the whole country in all sorts of dangers.

"What your father has done is undeclared martial law, due to which the country is going to face more and more financial and economic problems.

"Sanctions have already been imposed on us, which means going 30 years back as there will be no development," warns the writer in a reference to the decision of the United States and the European Union to suspend all direct aid to Pakistan.


[ image: Pakistanis expect the army to right the country's wrongs]
Pakistanis expect the army to right the country's wrongs
Many contributors see the coup as a chance for reform and for "cleansing" Pakistan of corruption, nepotism and fraud.

"It is still not clear but hopefully within the next few days we will know whether it is 'stand at ease' or 'quick march'," says one letter.

"But if it has to be 'action stations' let it be for reform through a cleansing purge of politics, administration and, yes, even the judiciary."

Although many contributors express concern about the coup, most readers of the site welcome it.

Asked whether "martial law is the only solution for Pakistan", at 1400 GMT on Sunday, 61% of participants had voted Yes.

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