The dismissal by Pakistan’s Supreme Court of petitions, challenging Pervez Musharraf from standing for re-election as President, even as he holds the post of Army chief, at one stroke removed any hope of a legal end to army rule in Pakistan. The 6-3 decision by Supreme Court judges on Friday in fact legalizes army rule in Pakistan.
On October 6, it appears that Pervez Musharraf will stand for President while also holding the post of chief of Pakistan’s army. In effect a victory for Musharraf will be a victory for the army and its continued dominance of Pakistani politics. Government lawyers, who first said that the President would resign from the army post if re-elected, later prevaricated.
The government, the Supreme Court, and the army were in fact rolled into one when under the The Oath of Judges Order 2000 the judges in Pakistan took a fresh oath of office swearing allegiance to military rule. Judges had to swear that they would not make decisions against the military rule.
The struggle for democracy will now move more dramatically to the streets. If earlier, opponents of Musharraf, political parties opposed to him, and the lawyers had hoped that the Supreme Court would rule in their favor, they will now have to take their protests to the street.
Musharraf is seeking re-election from a Parliament whose term ends in October this year, and his party has a majority in this parliament that was elected in 2002 at the peak of the General’s power. Once Musharraf is re-elected, and the army consolidate their rule, they will likely call for a general election, and they and their minions will decide who can contest and who will not. That may include former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, but will very definitely exclude another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
It is only the people of Pakistan who can prevent this bizarre sequence of events from unfolding. Close allies like the US have long ago thrown their weight behind Musharraf, and are evidently proud that their boy has made it past the petitions in the Supreme Court.