It’s a coup.

The Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency about 6 p.m. local time today, Pakistani television reported.

All members of the Supreme Court will be required to sign a new provisional constitutional order mandating the state of emergency. It is widely believed that any judge failing to do so will be dismissed.

The declaration came days before the Supreme Court was expected to rule on the constitutionality of General Musharraf’s re-election as president last month and of his ability to serve as both the country’s president and military leader…

A Pakistani intelligence official said that a list had been prepared of prominent Pakistani journalists and opposition politicians who would be detained.

The Beeb claims that police have surrounded the Supreme Court building and that independent media is off the air. Read through the Times piece and you’ll see that the pretext being used is the jihadi offensive in the tribal areas. Needless to say, the real reason is Musharraf’s fear that the Court is going to bounce him as president. Condi Rice and Adm. Fallon warned him yesterday not to do it. You see what we get for our money.

We didn’t blog much about it but the biggest blow to Musharraf’s authority this year didn’t come from the Taliban, it came from his political standoff with the country’s chief justice, whom he dismissed on an apparently trumped-up corruption charge in an earlier bid to intimidate the Court — and saw it blow up in his face when mass protests were held and the Court reinstated the chief justice. I thought between that, the return of Benazir Bhutto from exile, and the disaffection within the Pakistani army at the campaign against the Taliban that Musharraf would have to keep his nose clean from now on. Instead he’s doubled down. And since he’s relying entirely now on the military for his authority, he’ll have to address that disaffection by scaling back the campaign in the tribal areas. Which means we might as well finally turn off the tap of that military funding that’s brought us jack squat for the past 4-5 years.

Your obvious exit question: What now?

Update: Yup, it’s a coup.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was removed from his job and placed under house arrest. Musharraf had suspended the judge earlier this year, but he was later reinstated.

“This is a very fateful day for the country. Pakistan is in deep, deep crisis,” said Aitzaz Ahsan, Chaudhry’s attorney. “It is one man against the nation.” Ahsan said that he expected to be arrested later Saturday night…

The declaration is expected to bring on a wave of extremist attacks that have roiled the country in recent months, with increasingly large swaths of territory falling under the sway of insurgents.

Update: Eight justices of the Pakistani Supreme Court have declared the emergency order illegal and ordered the government not to comply with it.

Update: Via Weasel Zippers, that sure didn’t take long. War is over, if you want it…

Pakistan is considering enforcement of Islamic laws in Pakistan’s north-western Swat valley to meet the demands of pro-Taliban militants who briefly seized and then released around 100 security personnel after nine days’ fierce fighting that left more than 200 people dead. “The government is considering the implementation of Sharia law in the view of the demands of the local people,” said Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, governor of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in which the valley is situated…

Earlier, the rebels surrounded and disarmed 48 paramilitary soldiers on Thursday, who were released again Friday.

“We did not want to fight these Muslim brothers (militants) who are striving for the enforcement of Islamic sharia (law),” a captive told reporters before the release.

Update: High drama in Karachi. Bhutto’s just arrived, having flown back from Dubai. Minor problem, though:

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was sitting on a plane at Karachi airport Saturday following a decision by the government to impose a state of emergency, her spokesman said, as paramilitary troops started deploying in front of her house.

«She is waiting to see if she is going to be arrested or deported,» Wajid Hasan said after speaking to the former Pakistani prime minister by telephone from London.