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RESTORED

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will be restored — without conditions — by an executive order, according to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).

The quiet, patient man is on his third life, having been deposed twice previously by former President Pervez Musharraf.  Let’s hope he serves his term completely, without obstruction, and for the public good.

Kudos to the lawyers movement — one of Pakistan’s most organized, disciplined, and strategically-keen social movements.  Kudos to the political parties, third party groups, and street and Internet activists who stuck by their side.

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Deferral Till Death

Last August, I wrote:

About deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry: it is strange how so many powerful Pakistanis fear one good judge.  It is a testament to how much political and financial power are contingent upon a state of lawlessness and graft.  It is also strange that the rule of law movement is being opposed so vigorously when Baitullah Mehsud has accelerated his plans to establish his own judicial system across the tribal areas.  In a sense, Pakistanis face a choice between Iftikhar Chaudhry and Baitullah Mehsud.  Eliminating the former is a vote for the latter.

Today, President Asif Zardari is on the verge of making peace with Mehsud’s [ex?-]associate Maulana Fazlullah.  Without trying, Zardari has given up on establishing an effective civil judicial system in the greater Swat area.

At the same time, Zardari has declared war on a movement focused on establishing the rule of civil law, led by deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The formula of [Judicial System - Leading Rule of Law Movement Symbol = No Competition for Medieval Militants] has essentially been realized.

The Peoples Party has used a strategy of deferral till death (or death by deferral) for ‘contentious’ issues, such as restoration of the restored judges.

But look at the costs.  Law Minister Farooq Naik has been sitting on a “judicial reform” plan for around half a year.  Reforms that would produce speedy, effective civil justice — such as establishing night courts — are being delayed so they can be packaged with a boat load of other goodies (such as lowering the judges’ retirement age from 65 to 62 to expedite CJ Iftikhar’s retirement to December 2010).

These goodies will be packaged with another set of goodies for other political parties (Pakhtunkhwa for the ANP; provincial autonomy for the ANP & MQM) to create a mega-constitutional package.  The idea is that other political parties, save for the PML-N, will be satisfied enough as to go forward with neutering the courts (by removing the chief justice’s suo moto power) and not ask for a reduction in presidential powers.

[Regarding the presidential powers, note that on the very day Zardari was sworn in as president, Jehangir Badr began equivocating on the issue of nominalizing the presidency.  Neither the ANP nor the MQM have proposed a reduction in presidential powers.  Also, keep in mind that Washington does not trust Gilani.  He is seen as not being able to keep a secret from the ISI.]

The cost of Zardari’s power grab and war against Iftikhar is clear.  The ultimate victims of Zardari’s strategy of deferral till death are the Pakistani state system and the people it should be serving.

Update: 2/28 (12:25PM EST) — Babar Sattar, one of my favorite Pakistani columnists, writes:

“Our present system of governance is simply not sustainable and will need to be changed. But if the lawyers’ movement for reform fails, the only type of change that could follow would be the Taliban-style presently being endured by Swat.”

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Justice Wajihuddin: Constitution, Not Parliament is Supreme

Pakistan’s politicians frequently speak of their desire to restore the supremacy of the country’s parliament. The lawyers’ movement has been accused by some politicians, including from the PPP, of subverting this principle.

But the parliament itself has constraints. On today’s Kamran Khan show, retired Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed made an excellent point: the constitution, not parliament is supreme.

And so while some have criticized the lawyers’ movement for things such as threats of long marches, they should know that one, the lawyers’ movement is well within its right as part of civil society to engage in peaceful protest, and two, there should be nothing controversial about restoring Pakistan’s constitution and the guardians of that document, the Supreme Court.

The judiciary in Pakistan should be independent. It cannot simply exchange one master for another. If it does, Pakistan will find itself back at square one in another five years (or less).

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Musharraf Ally Attacked at Lawyers Rally: Work of Provocateurs or an (Un)civil Society?

Sher Afgan Niazi, a minister in the previous government and member of the Musharraf-allied Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), was attacked at a lawyers movement rally this evening in Lahore. After being assaulted, the tires of the ambulance sent to take him away were punctured and its keys were stolen.

Though the lawyers movement has always been a bit rowdy, they have been the victims of state violence. The impression given by this event is that they have now become perpetrators of violence.

Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), desperately tried to stop the beating of Niazi. He made his way through the mob to reach Niazi and even climbed on to the ambulance to call on those in the rally to cease their attacks. His call was not heeded. After exhausting all efforts, Ahsan then announced his resignation as president of the SCBA.

In my opinion, there is a high likelihood that the violence was perpetrated by provocateurs not associated with the lawyers movement. Why?

One, video images of the rally show an unusually high presence of plain-clothed individuals, not the black suit lawyers that have become a symbol of the lawyers movement. One of the most aggressive attackers was a plain-clothed man who was hitting Afgan with a shoe. Aitzaz Ahsan has said that upwards of 60% of those in the crowd were not lawyers (he asked the lawyers to raise their hands), and said these individuals were the most violent.

Two, the incident occurs in the midst of a campaign to discredit Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the lawyers movement. [Note, for example, how Justice Iftikhar's meeting meeting with Asif Zardari was immediately spinned in the media to taint him as "political." But not too long after that, the PPP's Ahmed Mukhtar defended Musharraf as "cashable." If seems as if Justice Iftikhar's credibility can be tarnished by as little as a speeding ticket, while Musharraf can go off scot-free, as long as he remains 'useful'.]

At the very least, the violence today is extremely convenient for those who seek the movement’s downfall. Images of Niazi being pushed and pulled in various directions are fodder for sensationalists in Pakistan’s media. Television producers bring out their favorite red pen to mark a circle around Niazi as he’s inhumanely tossed like a volleyball. The violence is then said to be associated with the lawyers movement and even with democracy.

So, what needs to be done?

One, senior leaders of the lawyers movement — Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, and others — should meet with Sher Afgan tomorrow. They should apologize for the violence inflicted against him, yet make it clear that the lawyers movement’s rank and file was not behind the incident. They should directly engage, with concrete evidence, the question of whether outside provocateurs were behind the attack on Afgan.

Two, the lawyers movement should preserve its leadership, cohesiveness, and overall objectives. The likely goal of the violence, if it was done by provocateurs, was to get the lawyers movement to give up on its goal to restore the deposed judges, particularly Justice Iftikhar, deposed by Pervez Musharraf in November. The new government has 21 days left to bring the judges back, according to the Murree Accord.

Three, the lawyers movement should revamp its public presence. Lawyers should behave like lawyers. Their rallies need to be more tame. Though it is likely that authentic lawyers movement members were not behind tonight’s violence, the previous aggressiveness of the lawyers movement makes the idea that the lawyers are responsible for today’s violence, in the eyes of the general public, more believable. For example, the enthusiasm of Ahmed Ali Kurd is much appreciated, but his firebrand rhetoric is often excessive.

Finally, the movement needs to develop a strategy to push for broad-based judicial reform in Pakistan. Restoring the deposed judges is significant for Pakistan’s political development. It is in Pakistan’s national interest. But beyond the judges and the Supreme Court, there is the Pakistani majority that benefits little from the justice system. If wronged, the average Pakistani does not have any legal resort. And so, in order to maintain an independent bond with the people of Pakistan and continue much needed political reform, the lawyers movement should push for the rule of law and justice for the common man.

UPDATE – 3:40PM (New York): Take a look at the two photos above.  Both clearly show a plain-clothed young male on the right assaulting Sher Afgan.  Both lawyers in suits and plain-clothed people are also shielding Afgan.  They are clearly doing more work than the police (controlled by the pro-Musharraf interim provincial government), who Aitzaz Ahsan says were vastly short in number.

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Musharraf Declares State of Emergency

  • Musharraf suspends constitution, declares emergency rule, and imposes Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO)
  • Transmission of news channels shut down in Pakistan
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice sacked, arrested and replaced with Musharraf loyalist
  • Over 1500 civilians arrested
  • Senior figures jailed or house arrested:
    • Lawyers’ movement: Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Tariq Mehmood, Ikram Chaudhry, Syed Muhammad Shah, and Ahsan Bhon
    • Tehreek-e Insaf: Imran Khan (has reportedly gone into hiding after suggesting to AFP that Musharraf’s moves are treason punishable by death), Abdul Samad Shaikh, and Badar Soomro
    • PML-N: Javed Hashmi, Khawaja Asif, Afzal Gujjar, and Zahid Rafiq Butt
    • Human rights advocates: Asma Jehangir and I.A. Rehman
    • Ethnic politicians: Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Asfandyar Wali, and Hadi Bhat
    • Pro-jihadi voices: Hameed Gul
    • Seven SC justices declare PCO unconstitutional [text of statement]
    • PCO excerpt: “No court including the Supreme Court, the Federal Shariat Court, and the High Courts, and any tribunal or other authority shall call or permit to be called in question this Order.”
    • State Department “deeply disturbed” by declaration of emergency rule
    • Condoleeza Rice: ER is “highly regrettable”; Expressed opposition to emergency rule on Friday
    • Benazir Bhutto returns to Karachi from Dubai
    • Musharraf’s address to nation:
      • Inaction would be suicide for Pakistan
      • Need balance of powers between three branches of government;
      • Judiciary superseded its role and stifled counterterrorism efforts
      • All assemblies, chief ministers and governors will remain in place
      • Compares his extraconstitutional moves to those of Abraham Lincoln during U.S. Civil War
    • Two new ordinances censoring media content
    • Mushahid Hussain opposes emergency rule; Says 20 out of 25 members of Musharraf’s inner circle voted for emergency rule
    • Live Pakistani television available on our site
    • Texts of Emergency Proclamation, Provisional Constitutional Order, and State Department statement below
    • NYT: CENTOM Chief Adm. William Fallon yesterday “told General Musharraf and his top generals in a meeting here that declaring emergency rule would jeopardize American financial support for the Pakistani military.”
    • Pentagon spokesperson: No U.S. plans to suspend military aid to Pakistan
    • Shaukat Aziz: Elections could be delayed for up to a year; 500 “preventative” arrests made
    • Condoleeza Rice: U.S. will review aid to Pakistan
    • Updates posted below

    Pakistan’s ‘tumultuous two weeks‘ has begun with a bang. A state of emergency has been declared by Pervez Musharraf. He is expected to address the country at approximately 11PM Pakistan Standard Time/2PM New York.

    The constitution has been suspended and the country is being run under a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). Seven judges of the Supreme Court — along with the media, a primary target of the constitutional suspension — have declared the PCO unconstitutional. Musharraf has sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and another justice, Abdul Hameed Dogar (pictured on the left) — a Musharraf loyalist — has taken the oath to replace him. At this point, Dogar has only been joined by 3-4 other justices. Similar developments are occurring with provincial high courts.

    The army has taken control of the Supreme Court, surrounded the buildings of major news stations, and arrested or detained many politicians. Cable television operators have been ordered to shut the transmission of news channels. Some Pakistani channels (such as GEO), broadcast out of Dubai and so they are available to viewers not utilizing Pakistani cable (e.g. Internet/satellite in and outside of Pakistan).

    In his proclamation of emergency (full text below), Musharraf — identifying himself as chief of army staff, not president — cites the rising violence in the country as the basis for his imposing martial law. However, the text holds the judiciary most culpable for the rise in violence. It lambastes them for allegedly encroaching upon the territory of the legislative and executive branches, stating, “Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism, thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace.”

    But it lists a litany of other alleged unrelated offenses by the judiciary, including: “interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth.” Here and elsewhere in the text, they are referring to the Supreme Court’s opposition to the privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills, among other acts. Today’s events, therefore, extend beyond terror — even by Musharraf’s own admission. The declaration of emergency rule are a challenge to the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary.

    Yesterday, I wrote that by mid-November, “we might find out what lessons [Musharraf has] learned from the strife of the past year. “

    I asked: “Will he conclude that the solution involves not a greater centralization of power but an efficient distribution of labor between the military, popular civilian politicians, and the judiciary? Will he conclude that his greatest threat is not the country’s civilian politicians or judiciary, but vigilantees who cut off the heads of Pakistani soldiers and incinerate civilians in the streets?”

    We apparently have our answers in advance. The answers seem to be, quite sadly, “No” and “No.”

    UPDATE: 2:40PM – Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has returned to Karachi from Dubai. Her plane is currently on a tarmac at Karachi’s Quaid-e Azam International Airport. Approximately 100 security personnel have surrounded her Karachi home. It is unclear as to whether she will be sent abroad, arrested or detained, or permitted to travel somewhat freely.

    UPDATE: 2:42PM – List of arrested or detained political, judicial, and social figures:

    • Iftikhar Chaudhry (Supreme Court Chief Justice);
    • Aitzaz Ahsan (People’s Party Senator and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association);
    • Imran Khan (President, Tehreek-e Insaaf);
    • Various Baloch and Sindhi nationalist leaders.

    UPDATE: 2:48PM – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice tells CNN that Musharraf’s declaration of emergency rule is “highly regrettable.”

    UPDATE: 2:50PM – Musharraf is addressing the country on the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV). Address is simulcast on non-news channels.

    UPDATE: 2:53PM – Musharraf’s address: Today’s events are the result of Pakistan’s internal discord. Says his guiding consideration for whatever action he has and will take is “Sub se pahlay Pakistan” (Pakistan first).

    UPDATE: 2:55PM – Musharraf’s address: Terror attacks are widespread. In major cities across Pakistan. Terrorists don’t fear law enforcement agencies. They’re very confident. They’re in settled areas, such as Swat. Even in Islamabad, “the heart of Pakistan…the capital of Pakistan.” Militants have created a “government within the government” challenging the writ of the central government.

    UPDATE: 2:57PM – Musharraf’s address: State of governance is “semi-paralysis.” Government officials have been “dishonored” by the judiciary. There are over 100 suo moto cases in the Supreme Court. Law enforcement agencies have been “demoralized.” Why? Because their officers have been charged, suspended, or convicted by the judiciary. As a result, they have been immobilized out of fear of punishment.

    UPDATE: 3:00PM – Musharraf’s address: Describes three stages of his rule. First stage (1999-2002), Pakistan was a failing state when he took over. He was in total control in the first stage. In the second stage (2002-2007), he “oversaw” a transition to civilian, democratic governance. This was the first time Senate, National Assemblies, etc. lasted their entire time. Now we’re in the last stage of this transition — the third stage — in which there would be a complete return to civilian rule. He says he sought national reconciliation, but for political and other reasons, some have sought to obstruct this process in its final stages — the final few months.

    UPDATE: 3:04PM – Musharraf’s address: There has been a great downturn. Foreign investors have slowed down their investment in Pakistan. The quality of life has improved over the past five years. Infrastructural development, airports, railways, mobile telephones, etc. are now spreading. In the social sector, primary and and secondary and higher education have been improving — but is afraid the advances of the past seven years will be washed away.

    UPDATE: 3:06PM – Musharraf’s address: He says foreigners have been calling him in recent weeks, asking him what’s going on in Pakistan, as the uncertainty and instability rises. Says to that “some television channels” and “some television programs” have contributed to national uncertainty. He says this is the media that “I gave independence to.” “The media should be independent, but should be responsible.”

    UPDATE: 3:09PM – Musharraf’s address: He asks, “Why are we in this situation?” Blames it on “judicial activism.” Says the judiciary has trampled upon the executive and legislative branches and that this began when he referenced the Supreme Court Chief Justice on March 9. Says he wasn’t personally involved in that.

    UPDATE: 3:16PM – Musharraf’s address: Goes into detail about the recent rise of the militants — including into the heart of Islamabad. Says the government took action against them after patient deliberation. Says the courts subsequently freed individuals definitely involved in terrorism. Says they could have been involved in recent terror attacks. Says the courts ordered the re-opening of madrasas training militants.

    UPDATE: 3:23PM – Musharraf’s address: My brothers and sisters…what is happening to this country? Where are we going? How do we curb this downside movement? Need a balance of powers between the three pillars of state — the judiciary, legislative and executive.

    UPDATE: 3:25PM – Musharraf’s address: In order to complete the third phase, need emergency rule. No change in government. Prime ministers, governors, and chief ministers will remain in office. All the assemblies will remain in place.

    UPDATE: 3:27PM – Musharraf’s address: Speaks in English now. Says he wants to speak to the world and “particularly to our friends in the West, the United States, the European Union, and the Commonwealth.” “I would ask you to kindly understand the criticality of the environment inside and outside Pakistan. Pakistan is on the verge of destabilization. If not arrested in time now, without any further delay, what saddens me most is that after all what we have achieved, I see in front of my eyes, Pakistan’s upsurge taking a downward trend. I personally, with all my conviction and with all the facts available to me. I consider that inaction at this moment is suicide for Pakistan and I cannot allow this country to commit suicide. Therefore, I had to take this action in order to preserve the democratic transition which I initiated eight years back…..I request you all to bear with us. To the critics and idealists against this action, I would like to say, please do not expect or demand your level of democracy, which you learned over a number of centuries. We’re also trying to learn and we’re doing well. Please give us time. Please also do not demand your level of civil rights, human rights, civil liberties which you’ve learned over centuries….Please give us time.”

    UPDATE: 3:35PM – Musharraf’s address: He then reads a passage from a text on Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus during the civil war. Then he reads from a letter written by Lincoln, “My oath to preserve the constitution imposed on me the duty of preserving by every indispensable means that government that nation of which the constitution was the organic law. was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the constitution? by general law life and limb but be protected but often a limb must be amputated to save a life…i felt that measures otherwise unconstitutional might become unlawful by becoming indispensable to the right or wrong I assumed this wrong and now avow it.” Musharraf says, “We are also learning democracy. We are going through a difficult stage. It is the nation that is important. Pakistan comes first. Anyone else’s considerations comes after Pakistan. With all my sincerity, whatever I’m doing is in the interest of Pakistan.”

    UPDATE: 3:37PM – Musharraf’s address: Ends address by returning to Urdu and stating that the people of Pakistan are agitated by the uncertainty will confront the nation’s challenges together.

    UPDATE: 3:40PM – Benazir Bhutto has left Karachi airport and is on her way home to Bilawal House in Karachi’s Clifton area.

    UPDATE: 3:47PM – Musharraf has issued two new ordinances affect the print and electronic media “prohibiting them to publish or broadcast statements that abet terrorist activities or terrorism.”

    UPDATE: 3:53PM – Benazir Bhutto is holding a press conference right now. Reads Musharraf’s statement and says “this is not emergency rule” but martial law. Says martial law must be ended and the constitution must be revived immediately. Says she returned from Dubai immediately after learning that television transmission was being cut off in Pakistan. Expressed her solidarity with the rest of Pakistan’s political parties.
    UPDATE: 4:03PM – Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of Musharraf’s Muslim League faction (PML-Q), tells the Washington Post of his opposition to the imposition of emergency rule, terming it “de facto martial law.” The Post says, “He said he had repeatedly tried to persuade the president against the measures in recent days but was outvoted within Musharraf’s inner circle.” Hussain says Musharraf “convened a meeting of his top advisers on Wednesday to discuss their options and that 20 of 25 were in favor of emergency rule.”

    UPDATE: 4:15PM – Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and People’s Party senator, speaks to ARY One World from a police station bathroom. He refers to Musharraf as a “spoiled brat” and a “bad loser.” Says he’s arrested under a “maintenance of order” provision. [Video]

    UPDATE: 8:02PM – Benazir Bhutto says, in an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “we would like to protest the imposition of martial law, and we would like to raise our voices for the restoration of democracy. So we’re going to be meeting together to discuss the most effective ways of doing that.”

    UPDATE: November 4, 2007 — 12:45AM - GEO reports that opposition figure Javed Hashmi and 10 other PML-N figures have been arrested in Multan.

    UPDATE: 1:04AM – A Pentagon spokesperson says, “At this point, the declaration does not impact on our military support for Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terror.”

    UPDATE: 1:26AM – Out of Pakistan’s three major Urdu news channels — GEO, ARY One World, and AAJ — only the latter beams exclusively out of Pakistan. Both GEO and ARY One World, for events like yesterday’s, made the wise decision years ago to transmit from Dubai’s Media City. Their main studios are also located there. As a result, they are still broadcasting to those who can receive their signal — satellite and Internet viewers. AAJ, unfortunately, is entirely Pakistan-based and to top it off, its broadcasting studios were raided by security officials and much of their equipment was confiscated. Their Karachi studios were targeted during the violence coinciding with the Chief Justice’s ill-fated visit to the city in May.

    UPDATE: 2:45AM – Imran Khan, previously under house arrest, has been taken to Koh Lakhpat Jail, according to Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaaf. This comes after his many interviews with the Pakistani and foreign press, including one with the AFP in which he is quoted as suggesting that Musharraf has committed treason punishable by death.

    UPDATE: 3:24AM – GEO reports that former ISI Chief Hameed Gul has been arrested.

    UPDATE: 3:45AM – AAJ TV is back on air (available here), but like other channels currently permitted to broadcast in Pakistan, is broadcasting non-news and non-political content. But this site states that it had Ret. Judge Wajihuddin Ahmed on the air.

    UPDATE: 3:58AM – AAJ TV seems to have been taken off the air again.

    UPDATE: 4:19AM – Tariq Fatemi, a retired senior Pakistani diplomat tells GEO that U.S. and Western capitals’ public reaction with feature an “expression of regret and expectation of improvement”, but privately, it will be business as usual. He says their primary interests in Pakistan are three-fold: 1) The war on terror; 2) Continuation of military campaigns along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; 3) Ensuring Pakistan’s help in a war against Iran.

    UPDATE: 4:36AM – AAJ is back on the air. Another religious show is on.

    UPDATE: 12:24PM – Geo reports that Asfandyar Wali, head of the Awami National Party, is under house arrest.

    ————————————————————————————

    STATE DEPARTMENT STATEMENT [Link]

    “The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that Pakistani President Musharraf has taken extra-constitutional actions and has imposed a state of emergency. A state of emergency would be a sharp setback for Pakistani democracy and takes Pakistan off the path toward civilian rule. President Musharraf has stated repeatedly that he will step down as Chief of Army Staff before re-taking the presidential oath of office and has promised to hold elections by January 15th. We expect him to uphold these commitments and urge him to do so immediate. The United States stand with the people of Pakistan in supporting a democratic process and in countering violent extremism. We urge all parties to work together to complete the transition to democracy and civilian rule without violence or delay.”

    ————————————————————————————

    TEXT OF EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION (PDF)

    ISLAMABAD, Nov 3 (AFP): This is the full text of the proclamation of the emergency:

    PROCLAMATION OF EMERGENCY

    Whereas there is visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, IED explosions, rocket firing and bomb explosions and the banding together of some militant groups have taken such activities to an unprecedented level of violent intensity posing a grave threat to the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan.

    Whereas there has also been a spate of attacks on state infrastructure and on law enforcement agencies;

    Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism, thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

    Whereas there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;

    Whereas constant interference in executive function, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralized and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and Intelligence Agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;

    Whereas some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released.

    The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life an property. Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies subdued;

    Whereas some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions;

    Whereas the Government is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and holds the superior judiciary in high esteem, it is nonetheless of paramount importance that the honourable Judges confine the scope of their activity to the judicial function and not assume charge of administrations;

    Whereas an important constitutional institution, the Supreme Judicial Council, has been made entirely irrelevant and non est by a recent order and judges have, thus, make themselves immune from inquiry into their conduct and put themselves beyond accountability.

    Whereas the humiliating treatment meted to government officials by some members of the judiciary on a routine basis during court proceedings has demoralized the civil bureaucracy and senior government functionaries, to avoid being harassed, prefer inaction;

    Whereas the law and order situation in the country as well as the economy have been adversely affected and trichotomy of powers eroded;

    Whereas a situation has thus arisen where the government of the country cannot be carried on it

    Accordance with the constitution and as the constitution provides no solution for this situation, there is no way out except through emergent and extraordinary measures;
    And whereas the situation has been reviewed in meetings with the Prime Minister, governors of all Provinces, and with chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, chiefs of the armed forces, vice chief of army Staff and corps commanders of the Pakistan army;

    Now, therefore, in pursuance of the deliberations and decisions of the said meetings, I, General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff, proclaim emergency throughout Pakistan.

    I hereby order and proclaim that the constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance.

    This Proclamation shall come into force at once.

    ————————————————————————————

    TEXT OF PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER

    Text of Provisional Constitution Order

    ISLAMABAD, Nov 3 (APP) – Following is the text of the Provisional Constiotution Order issued on Saturday:

    PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION ORDER

    In pursuance of the Proclamation of the 3rd day of November, 2007, and in exercise of all powers enabling him in that behalf, the Chief of Army Staff under the Proclamation of Emergency of the 3rd day of November, 2007, is pleased to make and promulgate the following Order:-

    1. (1) This Oder may be called the Provisional Constitution Order No. 1 of 2007.

    (2) It extends to the whole of Pakistan,

    (3) It shall come into force at once.

    2* (1) Notwithstanding the abeyance of the provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, hereinafter referred to as the Constitution, Pakistan shall, subject to this Order and any other Order made by the President be governed, as nearly as may be, in accordance with the Constitution:

    Provided that the President may, from time to time, by Order amend the Constitution, as is deemed expedient;

    Provided further that the Fundamental Rights under Articles 9, 10, 15,16,17,19 and 25 shall remain suspended.

    (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Proclamation of the 3rd day of November, 2007, or this Order or any other law for the time being in force all provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan embodying Islamic injunctions including Articles 2t 2A, 31, 203A to 203J, 227 to 231 and 260 (3) (a) and (b) shall continue to be In force.

    (3) Subject to clause (1) above and the Oath of Office

    (Judges) Order, 2007, all courts in existence immediately before the commencement of this Order shall continue to function and to exercise their respective powers and jurisdication.

    Provided that the Supreme Court or a High Court and any other court shall not have the power to make any order against the President or the Prime Minister or any person exercising powers or jurisdiction under their authority.

    (4) All personi who immediately before the commencement of this Order were in office as judges of the Supreme Court, the Federal Shariat Court or a High Court, shall be governed by and be subject to the Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007, and such further Orders as the President may pass.

    (5) Subject to clause (1) above, the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) and the Provincial Assemblies shall continue to function.

    (6) All persons who, immediately before the commencement of this Order, were holding any service, post or office in connection with the affairs of the Federation ox of a Province, including an All Pakistan Service, Service in the Armed Forces and any other Service declared to be a Service of Pakistan by or under Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or of a Provincial Assembly, or Chief Election Commissioner or Auditor General shall continue in the said service on the same terms and conditions and shall enjoy the same privileges, if any, unless these are changed under Orders of the President.

    3, (l) No court including the Supreme Court, the Federal Shariat Court, and the High Courts, and any tribunal or other authority shall call or permit to be called in question this Order, the Proclamation of Emergency of the 3rd day of November, 5007, the Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007 or any Order made in pursuance thereof.

    (2) No judgment, decree, writ, order or process whatsoever shall be made or issued by any court or tribunal against the President or the Prime Minister or any authority designated by the President.

    4. (]) Notwithstanding the abeyance of the provisions of the Constitution, but subject to the Orders of the President, all laws other than the Constitution, til Ordinances. Orders, Rules, Bye-laws, Regulations, Notifications and other legal Instruments in force in any part of Pakistan, whether made by the President or the Governor of a Province, shall continue in force until ltered, amended or repealed by the Preaidont or any authority designated by him.

    5. (I) An Ordinance promulgated by the President or by the Governor of a Province shall not be subject to any limitations as to duration prescribed in the Constitution.

    (2) The provisions of clause (1) shall also apply to an Ordinance issued by the President or by a Governor which was in force immediately before the commencement of the Proclamation of Emergency of the 3rd day of November, 2007.

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    A Tumultuous Two Weeks for Pakistan

    • November 6: Earliest date for Supreme Court ruling on Pervez Musharraf’s re-election eligibility
    • November 7: Possible date for Nawaz Sharif departure of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for London
    • November 8: Benazir Bhutto expected to return to Pakistan from Dubai
    • November 8: Supreme Court to receive report from Sindh government on Bhutto blasts
    • November 9: Bhutto to hold rally in Rawalpindi
    • November 15: Musharraf’s presidential term expires
    • ~ November 15: Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan?
    • Ongoing: Waziristan insurgency
    • Ongoing: Swat clashes
    • Ongoing: Suicide attacks across the country targeting senior military officials, civilian leaders, and military convoys and installations

    Pakistan’s short-term volatility will continue, at the very least, till late January to early February. By then — if things go as scheduled — a new, shaky governing coalition will have formed after fresh parliamentary elections.

    There are multiple variables — national, provincial, local, regional and global — that could end up shaping Pakistan’s fate in the near-mid term.

    As such, the uncertainty is widespread — going all the way to the top in both Islamabad and Washington. But what is clear is that the next two weeks will feature events of paramount significance for Pakistan.

    The most important date on the calendar is November 15, which is when Musharraf’s current presidential term expires. Musharraf pledged that, if re-elected as president, he’ll resign from the army, vacate the position of chief of army staff (the most powerful position in the country), and take his second term oath as a civilian.

    Musharraf has already been re-elected, but his candidacy remains contested. It’s an asterisked victory similar to Barry Bonds’ breaking of Hank Aaron’s home run record.

    In a ruling as convoluted as Pakistan’s constitutional history, the Supreme Court permitted presidential elections (conducted via an electoral college) to go on with Musharraf on the ballot, but deferred deciding on his eligibility to run. Their subsequent ruling on his eligibility, which hasn’t been made yet, will be retroactive. If they decide in the negative, Musharraf will — according to Pakistan’s constitution — remain as president until his successor is elected.

    The Supreme Court was originally expected to make a decision by today. During the week, Musharraf’s camp put out suggestions in the media that emergency rule could be imposed. This would give the president license to subvert the current constitutional restrictions and time tables imposed on him — though some elements in Musharraf’s circle stated that the election schedule and most press freedoms would remain unaffected.

    Most likely, the emergency rule chatter was merely a means to pressure the judiciary to not only produce a decision favorable to Musharraf, but also in the desired time frame. Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal replied that the court won’t be impacted by such threats. Indeed, the Court went even further, announcing yesterday that lawyers’ arguments have taken longer than expected and should a decision not be reached on Friday, proceedings would resume on November 12. Their curious explanation for the week-long delay: a justice will be unavailable due to his daughter’s wedding.

    Benazir Bhutto apparently took the threat seriously, albeit briefly. She postponed her trip to Dubai as a result, but then surprised many when she left for Dubai yesterday. The reasons for the change in her decision are unknown, but curiously half a day later, Condoleeza Rice issued a statement opposing the imposition of martial law in Pakistan. In other words, Bhutto likely had assurances from Rice before her departure that Washington wouldn’t tolerate emergency rule.

    After Rice’s statement, the Supreme Court changed course, announcing today that it will continue deliberations on Monday and Tuesday. After staving off Musharraf’s pressure tactics and perhaps receiving indirect support from Washington, the court could produce a final decision as early as Tuesday.

    The court is expected to rule in Musharraf’s favor. Still, Musharraf would like greater breathing room — a comfortable window in between the court’s verdict and the end of his first term.

    More imminent than the latter is the potential departure of Nawaz Sharif from Saudi Arabia. Sharif could return to London as early as Wednesday – and possibly try to return to Pakistan the following week.

    Meanwhile, Bhutto expects to return to Pakistan by Thursday the latest and address a rally in Rawalpindi on Friday. Bhutto could address the rally virtually by phone or tape recording, but regardless the Pindi rally is highly significant. Firstly, Rawalpindi the seat of the Pakistani army and neighbors Islamabad. Secondly, it’ll mark her first entry into Punjab (Pakistan’s largest province), which will unsettle her greatest political rivals — the Chaudhry cousins of the PML-Q party. The PML-Q is already concerned about losing partial or total control nationally to Bhutto’s PPP. A serious challenge in Punjab, which they govern, by Bhutto’s party would be an existential threat for them politically.

    Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N is expected to have a strong showing in Punjab. It has a wider, more natural support base in the province than the Chaudhries’ PML-Q. It could also welcome PML-Q defectors sensing the turning of the tide. An assertive Punjab campaign by the PPP could further eat up the Chaudhries’ spoils, leaving them with little more than Gujrat. In this scenario, they could conceivably pair up with the PML-N or PPP in a coalition, but the odds of them playing dirty are unfortunately greater.

    Musharraf (and Pakistan as a whole) faces a tough two weeks. The political-legal uncertaintity and boiling tensions in Waziristan and Swat, combined with the wave of suicide attacks against the armed forces and senior leaders (including Benazir Bhutto and CJCS Gen. Tariq Majeed) across the country, will crescendo.

    While emergency rule is highly improbable, Musharraf could issue and utilize an ordinance that would enable the army to court martial and detain civilians indefinitely and without charge. The ordinance would likely be advertised as targeting militants, but there is a strong possibility it could be used against political opponents. If promulgated, the Supreme Court will likely receive petitions against its constitutionality. Still, the Supreme Court has proven to operate slowly as it is overwhelmed with high-profile cases. This could give Musharraf’s government a decent window in which to make use of the ordinance before it is knocked out.

    The next two weeks will be a difficult test for Musharraf. At its end, we might find out what lessons he’s learned from the strife of the past year. Will he conclude that the solution involves not greater centralization of power but an efficient distribution of labor between the military, popular civilian politicians, and the judiciary? Will he conclude that his greatest threat is not the country’s civilian politicians or judiciary, but vigilantees who cut off the heads of Pakistani soldiers and incinerate civilians in the streets? Perhaps we’ll see on November 15th.

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    Paradoxes and Political Intrigue Persist in Pakistan

    Developments in Pakistan in recent days further the view for both insiders and outsiders that the country is a perplexing bowl of contradictions and political intrigue.

    KSE RISES
    The Karachi Stock Exchange closed at all-time highs on Monday and Tuesday. Investor confidence boosted due to Pervez Musharraf’s re-election as president (pending the validation of his candidacy), which they associate with future political stability and continuity of pro-growth, liberal economic policies. Their sentiments might be valid in the mid-term, but the next three months, at the very least, will be a roller coaster period for the country—and Pakistan’s securities markets will likely not be as immune to the volatility as they have been before.

    MUSHARRAF ESCAPES DANGER ONCE AGAIN
    On the same day as the market rally, a helicopter escorting Musharraf to Kashmir crashed, killing four individuals. This was also the first day of work for Musharraf’s slated army successor, Ashfaq Kiyani, as vice chief of army staff. Though the president was never in any danger and there is no sign of foul play, the context eerily resembles the assassination of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988. The accident is a keen reminder that a single event of this sort can have a defining impact, but as with Zia’s demise, need not necessarily result in systemic change.

    WAZIRISTAN ON FIRE
    While investors are buoyant down south in Karachi, the country’s northwest has witnessed some of its most severe fighting between Pakistan’s army and local-foreign insurgents. According to the army, 45 troops and 150 insurgents have been killed in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. There have also been significant civilian casualties, with non-combatants fleeing the area. The government has been bombarding insurgents from the air with helicopter gunships and jets. The heightened use of air power markedly differs from the government’s previous ground-oriented strategy, which sought to avoid so-called collateral damage and earning further disfavor of locals. It suggests any number of the following:

    • the army has decided its strong avoidance of civilian casualties has been too costly;
    • patience on its side is wearing thin;
    • there is significant external pressure on Islamabad to bring in decisive results before the winter;
    • or a strategic and/or political (via Bhutto deal) window of opportunity has emerged to enable a forceful confrontation of militants.

    Perhaps the army has opted for a Balochistan-like strategy, in which it would deliver strong, decisive blows to the insurgency (costing many innocent civilian lives) and follow up with a heavy infusion of development funds. Large scale, yet short-term violence would be complemented by a vast improvement in quality of life and incorporation/subsidization of local elites. In FATA, these funds would largely come from the 5-year $750 million US aid package and opportunities from its duty-free economic opportunity zone program, and would trickle down to the locals via notables with newly padded pockets.

    FAZLUR RAHMAN AND THE FRACTURING OF THE MMA
    A critical player in the political solution in FATA will be Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who, despite being in the political “opposition,” has proved to be almost as loyal to Musharraf as the Chaudhries. Fazlur Rahman is epitome of the “siyasi ulema” (political Islamic scholars) Abdur Rashid Ghazi lambasted on national television minutes before his demise in the Lal Masjid compound. The JUI-F should play a significant role in liaisoning between FATA notables and insurgents and the federal government/military. Its role in bringing a death blow to the MMA and APDM will not go unrewarded. The pending dissolution of the NWFP assembly will result in fresh provincial elections that might see MMA factions running on their own tickets, and a final tally that places the JUI-F in a stronger individual provincial position than before.

    NATIONAL RECONCILIATION OR POLITICAL GIMMICK?
    Recent comments by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and to a lesser extent Shaukat Aziz, have sought to cast doubt on the government’s sincerity in its deal with Benazir Bhutto and her People’s Party. Aziz boasted of having divided and outsmarted the opposition, which is true, and Shujaat bluntly stated that the government has no intention of following through on its promises to Bhutto — and that it it will, in fact, get political cover from the Supreme Court ruling the National Reconciliation Ordinance invalid.

    Shujaat’s comments should be taken with a grain (or bucket) of salt. One, Washington — Musharraf’s greatest benefactor — strongly wants the deal to go through fully. Two, Shujaat stands to lose most from the Bhutto-Musharraf deal. Musharraf’s presidency is essentially set (barring a Supreme Court rejection of his candidacy), but Shujaat’s party has to face off against Bhutto’s in the general elections. Images of him and his cousin appear frequently on Pakistani television screens, with a massive wave of advertisements on private channels (source of funding unclear) hailing the achievements of the governments of Musharraf (“Sub se pahlay Pakistan”) and Pervez Ellahi (“Para likha Punjab”). The Chaudhries may have reluctantly consented to a Bhutto-Musharraf deal, but they will show some feistiness to retain their dominance over Punjab and share of federal power.

    The rejection of Shujaat’s statements by a Musharraf spokesperson suggests that the president will have to play a fine balancing act between PML-Q partisan and partner of Benazir. It’s the same kind of lack of partiality the Bush administration has sought to display in recent days vis-a-vis Pakistan (i.e. support for the country, not just one man–Musharraf). Should Musharraf alienate his PML-Q base, one might witness the party distancing itself from Musharraf and veering toward some sort of rapprochement, if not re-consolidation, with the PML-N.

    NAWAZ’S NOVEMBER SURPRISE?
    The PML-N offers little in political value without the presence of at least one Sharif brother in Pakistan. As a result, the Musharraf government was keen on keeping the former prime minister out of the country prior to his re-election. Since then, they have expressed resistance to his return prior to general-elections — though it is unclear as to whether this is a reflection of the government’s needs or the wishes of the Bhutto camp.

    Nawaz is reportedly to return to London after Eid. If proven to be true, it will indicate that Sharif and family were informed of this upon return to Saudi, as Kulsoom Nawaz made such claims early at that point. Also it would prove to partially explain the Sharif family’s relative quietness in the past few weeks. From London, the Sharif brothers could return to Pakistan between November and post-elections in January. Reports suggest family members will trickle into Pakistan individually. Nawaz’s son Hassan has said his father will return to Pakistan between November 15 and 30. A pre-election return is more likely for Shahbaz Sharif. Odds of a Nawaz return pre-elections would multiply if he got another Supreme Court ruling in his favor. If Nawaz returns after the general elections, he could shake things up if discontent in the PML-Q and with others is high. Alternatively, his return could come after the candles have been blow out and the cake has been eaten.

    POWER DISTRIBUTION POST-GENERAL ELECTIONS
    Najam Sethi has stated that the Bhutto-Musharraf understanding will likely produce a PPP government (and Musharraf presidency) at the center, a PML-Q controlled Punjab with a significant PPP presence, a PPP-PML coalition government in NWFP and Balochistan, and a PPP-MQM coalition government in Sindh.

    I think Sethi errs in only noting three political mouths (other than his own) Musharraf has to feed. There’s a four rewardee, the JUI-F. Fazlur Rahman’s deeds on behalf of Musharraf in recent weeks, as well as in the past four years, cannot simply be wishful lobbying. JUI-F will likely play an important role in addressing issues of militancy in NWFP, Balochistan, and FATA. Washington probably recognizes and supports this. Moreover, it makes little sense for JUI-F to have enabled Musharraf’s re-election under the current parliament and the fracture of its political alliance only to be punished with a loss of provincial power.

    The JUI-F will likely be a part of the NWFP government at least for the same reasons the MQM will share power with the PPP in Sindh. Both were used to displace the previous ruling party, which necessitates a ‘soft landing’ for them — especially since they’re still useful. The PPP’s Sindh compromise is a concession for power at the national level, though its relations with the MQM will have its share of challenges. Sethi doesn’t seem to give much thought to a PML-Q presence at the national level. Mushahid Hussain and others with the party have proposed the idea of a national unity government. While this remains possible, strong animosities between PML-Q stalwarts and the PPP, combined with Benazir Bhutto’s compromises vis-a-vis Musharraf, will likely prohibit her from entertaining such an idea. Why would she accept a prime ministership already diluted by the troika?

    CARETAKER GOVERNMENT
    The general elections will be held under the rule of a caretaker government. At this point, there is only pure speculation as to who will be the interim prime minister. Candidates include: Jehangir Karamat, Ishrat Hussain, and Hamid Nasir Chattha. Tariq Aziz and Shujaat Hussain have been tasked with arranging for the interim set-up, but clearly Benazir will have significant input in these matters as they will factor significantly in the outcome of the elections (i.e. free and/or favorable).

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    The Second Battle of Islamabad

    captisl10409290711pakistan_politics_isl104.jpgIslamabad, once Pakistan’s most serene and perhaps sedating city, is now at the center of its political storm. In the summer, its Red Mosque lived up to its name after days of gruesome violence left dozens killed and more injured in clashes between security forces and militants-students affiliated with Abdur Rashid Ghazi.

    Today, the violence has shifted to the Election Commission, located (quite ironically) on Constitution Avenue. The Lawyer’s Movement gathered outside the Supreme Court to continue their protests against Pervez Musharraf and his bid for re-election. A few hours into the protests, they made their way toward the Election Commission headquarters, which has superseded the Supreme Court as the center of political contention.

    The EC HQ was off-limits to them. Islamabad has been under a high state of alert, but the locus of the security presence was around the EC HQ. As lawyers (and media following them) made their way toward the cordoned off building, they were met with severe violence at the hands of state security apparatus.

    The violence toward the media has been complemented with a television blackout in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area. This violence occurred while Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz remained inside the Election Commission headquarters (trapped for a bit) along with Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, Chaudhry Shujaat, Farooq Leghari, Mushahid Hussain, and Arbab Ghulam Rahim. Farooq Sattar, a senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader wasn’t so lucky as he was outside of the gates of the EC HQ, and was beaten up by a group of lawyers. This is a dangerous development, perhaps opening the gates for MQM-led violence against lawyers and the opposition (especially the Jamaat-e Islami) in Karachi. Rather than controlling his political opposition, Pervez Musharraf has perhaps catalyzed a broadening of political violence into Pakistan’s largest city.  Moreover, he’s relinquished the slight increase in credibility he received yesterday after the Supreme Court’s decision in his favor.

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    A Supreme Non-Decision

    From Nawaz Sharif’s ill-fated return to the Supreme Court petitions against his presidential candidacy, Pervez Musharraf has successfully pulled the air out of his opposition’s more dramatic attempts to oppose his rule. Friday’s Supreme Court dismissal of the anti-Musharraf petitions strongly suggests an arrangement between the High Court and Musharraf pre-figured the outcome well in advance. This enabled Musharraf to utilize as a political instrument a court that has built up a public image of independence, legitimacy, and virtual sacredness through opposing him. As a result, the Supreme Court’s decision has been largely met with resignation by the Pakistani public. Opposing the decision of the court would defy its new-found sanctity and public sentimentalism for the rule of law.

    The nature and timing of the Supreme Court’s non-decision indicate an arrangement between Pakistan’s president and the High Court. Firstly, the petitions were dismissed on technicalities, not merit. This technical dismissal is consistent with the High Court’s previous rulings against similar anti-military rule petitions going back to the 1950s. Furthermore, non-maintainability should have been obvious and declared at the outset. A retired judge, Fakhruddin Ibrahim, speculates that the technical violation was that the petitions were submitted before Musharraf filed his nomination papers. The exact reasons are unknown, as the senior presiding justice, Rana Baghwandas, stated they would be “recorded later.”

    The Supreme Court went through a complete set of extended proceedings, including closing arguments, though none of this was necessary for the court’s final ruling. So what was the purpose? It seems as if the prescribed goal was to draw out the process as close to the elections as possible, stifling any significant legal opposition to Musharraf’s re-election bid. After all, the court announced its decision late Friday afternoon, right before the start of the weekend, and its vague statement leaves the opposition unclear about what exactly they did wrong and what they can do to amend it. Time is running out for them: the elections are exactly a week away.

    Musharraf’s opposition is fractured. In Pakistan’s political history, this story repeats itself. Pro-democracy and ideological alliances fracture because one party defects to eat the forbidden fruit. The Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) are PPP-less. The People’s Party will accommodate Musharraf as long as he removes corruption charges against Benazir and permits her to run for a third term.

    The ARD and APDM are left with the PML-N, Tehreek-e Insaaf, and an MMA that’s falling apart as well. The JUI-F and JI divide is reaching a defining moment. Fazlur Rahman has clearly decided to block the MMA’s attempts to dissolve the NWFP Provincial Assembly and cause new parliamentary elections that would delay and precede presidential elections. Perhaps that explains his reasons for meeting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson on Friday (under the pre-text for ‘valiantly’ telling her to leave Afghanistan). The Maulana definitely left the meeting with a reward– perhaps a kiss on his bearded cheek.

    As for the lawyer’s movement, it may soon be losing its patriarch, and with yesterday’s ruling, has clearly lost control of its greatest instrument of change.

    Musharraf is not completely in the clear, though he has averted what is probably his greatest challenge. Some suggest that yesterday’s ‘resolution’ was in the best interest of the country in that it avoided a catastrophic clash between pro and anti-Musharraf forces. Such is the power of threats. Pakistan’s elite must grow beyond temporary power sharing arrangements and actually come together on a real policy agenda for change and progress. If they fail to do so, they will find themselves and Pakistan’s remaining 160 million people underneath their toes captives on a Titanic sinking into the Arabian Sea. Rather than maintaining an ugly status quo, Pakistanis must decide where exactly they want to go.

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    Pakistan Supreme Court Dismisses Petitions Against Musharraf’s Candidacy

    The Supreme Court of Pakistan has just ruled that petitions by Imran Khan (Tehreek-e Insaaf) and Qazi Hussain Ahmed (Jamaat-e Islami) that protested Pervez Musharraf’s eligibility for presidential re-election are “unmaintainable.” This clears the way for Musharraf’s re-election via an electoral college consisting of the national parliament and provincial assemblies. The lawyer’s movement will continue its opposition to Musharraf, perhaps focusing on the Election Commission’s irregularities, but the major remaining roadblock to the Pakistani president’s re-election is the potential denial of an electoral college quorum. This can occur if the Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA) resigns from the North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) Provincial Assembly or if the People’s Party resigns from the National Assembly, which are unlikely.

    Fazlur Rahman of the Jamaat-e Ulema-e Islam (JUI-F) only supports resigning from the National Assembly, a move that will amount to nothing tangible. The Maulana apparently hopes to be rewarded by Pakistan’s present rulers, or at the very least fears punishment with a poor showing in subsequent national and provincial elections. Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party will neither deny Musharraf a quorum nor vote for him. Their votes are not necessary for a Musharraf victory anyway. In short, the Supreme Court’s provides legal-political cover for Benazir Bhutto and Fazlur Rahman to “oppose” Musharraf in the most benign fashion possible.

    The High Court’s decision is a significant blow for the lawyer’s movement, but isn’t a complete defeat for those desiring the rule of law in Pakistan. GEO TV reports that Justice Rana Bhagwan Das stated in his remarks, “We have buried the law of necessity,” strongly suggesting that military coups and other radical extra judicial acts will not be tolerated in the future. Essentially they can be saying to Musharraf, “This is the last time we’ll do this for you.” But that’s easier said than done — Musharraf received Supreme Court legitimization of his coup by strong-arming judges through the Oath of Judges Order in January 2000.

    The court will come out with a detailed ruling perhaps later today, hopefully shedding light on how the opposition’s petitions were “unmaintainable.” Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e Islami’s lawyer Akram Sheikh will submit a review petition and ask that a full court, with the Chief Justice presiding, rule over the decision.

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    Editor:

    Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

    For Media and Consulting Inquiries:
    E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

    On Twitter:
    @PakistanPolicy

    On the Radio:
    Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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