November 28, 2007

Musharraf To End Emergency Rule?

Pakistan's Attorney General tells the Daily Times that the parliamentary elections will not be held under emergency rule, and that the newly-civilian president may lift his emergency decree within days. If so, this represents an amazing reversal for Pervez Musharraf, who had given every indication that the PCO would continue for at least the next several weeks (via the Weekly Standard):

Attorney General (AG) of Pakistan Malik Muhammad Qayyum said on Tuesday that the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) would be lifted “very soon”. “It is for sure the elections will be held under the constitution and not the PCO,” he told Daily Times. He said when the Presidential election was held the constitution was fully operative and General Musharraf was re-elected for another term as a constitutional president. When asked if he could suggest a time frame for the lifting of emergency rule and revocation of the PCO, he said President General Pervez Musharraf had empowered himself, through an amendment, to revoke the PCO.

Constitutional oath, polls: The AG said, “General Musharraf’s oath as civilian president on November 29 would be taken under the 1973 Constitution and not under the PCO. He added that the upcoming general elections would also be held under the 1973 Constitution. Under the PCO some Articles relating to fundamental rights and the higher judiciary were suspended while provisions dealing with the presidential office remained intact, he said. He said the government had been considering lifting emergency rule but the recent terrorist acts had delayed the decision.

That excuse could keep the PCO going indefinitely; in fact, it's what excused it in the first place. The US made it clear that Musharraf needed to allow for a normal political process, not reimpose military rule indefinitely. Apparently the message got through clearly, although Musharraf got what he wanted -- an unchallenged shift to civilian authority for the next five years.

Bill Roggio points out the obvious:

Musharraf stated his main reason for suspending the constitution was to fight the growing rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda. But if the 1973 constitution is restored prior to any attempts to clear the Taliban from its strongholds up and down the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas, it is clear Musharraf's real intent was to preserve his own position in the Pakistani political power structure.

Agreed, but .... While that confirms that Musharraf hardly qualifies as a paragon of democratic virtue, it could have turned out worse. Musharraf has had to back down, and this latest paroxysm of military dictatorship may still wind up being the last.


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