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November 23, 2007
Musharraf Clears Last Legal Hurdle to Election
Thanks to a sympathetic court, packed with hand picked loyalists, the last legal challenge to the re-election of President Pervez Musharraf to a second term has been overcome:
Presidential aides said General Musharraf would now abide by his pledge to step down as head of the army and become a civilian president when he takes the oath of office, which is expected in the coming days. Will Musharraf step down from the army? This entry from Wikpedia details the last time Musharraf promised to leave the army:
The court decision was the final step in a series of maneuvers devised by General Musharraf, including the imposition of emergency rule nearly three weeks ago, to ensure his continuation in power. It underscored the quandary for those in the opposition, who must decide whether to take part in parliamentary elections General Musharraf has announced for Jan. 8, even though they consider his re-election illegitimate.
The general scrapped the Constitution on Nov. 3 and dismissed a Supreme Court that seemed poised to judge a new term for him illegal.
In December 2003, Musharraf made a deal with Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a six-member coalition of Islamic parties, agreeing to leave the army by December 31, 2004. With that party's support, pro-Musharraf legislators were able to muster the two-thirds supermajority required to pass the Seventeenth Amendment, which retroactively legalized Musharraf's 1999 coup and many of his decrees. In late 2004, Musharraf went back on his agreement with the MMA and pro-Musharraf legislators in the Parliament passed a bill allowing Musharraf to keep both offices.Is it any wonder people don't trust him to keep his word on this matter?
Meanwhile, real trouble is on the way with the possible return from exile of a man who could possibly unite many of the religious parties and challenge Benazir Bhutto for the prime ministership.
As the new, more pliant court gave the general the ruling he wanted, aides to one of the country’s leading opposition figures, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said he appeared ready to leave his exile in Saudi Arabia and return home to take part in the parliamentary elections. Sharif is so dangerous, Musharraf may be willing to risk a boycott by some parties in the January elections just to keep him out of the country. However, the Saudis would love to see Sharif back in Pakistan if only to balance the opposition by challenging the secular Bhutto.
Mr. Sharif, potentially General Musharraf’s most potent opponent, flew from Jidda to Riyadh on Thursday to see the Saudi royal family in what appeared to be the final preparations for his homecoming. Just two days ago, General Musharraf flew to Saudi Arabia for a short trip that diplomats described as an effort to persuade the Saudi authorities to keep Mr. Sharif from leaving the country.
The two men are bitter enemies. General Musharraf deposed Mr. Sharif in a bloodless coup in October 1999. Mr. Sharif left Pakistan in 2000 under an agreement in which a prison sentence for corruption and hijacking was dropped in exchange for 10 years in exile.
So the champagne is on ice but no one has popped the cork yet in celebration of Musharraf leaving the army. It may very well happen in the next few days as he has promised. But many are not holding their breath in anticipation of the event.