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March 10, 2008
Musharraf's Days are Numbered
The two parties who are forming a coalition government in Pakistan have agreed to reinstate the Supreme Court judges that President Musharraf removed more than 4 months ago and placed under house arrest.
The move clears the way for Musharraf's re-election as president to be invalidated:
The leaders of the two major political parties, in an unexpectedly strong show of unity against President Pervez Musharraf, agreed Sunday that they would reinstate judges fired by the president and would seek to strip him of crucial powers. The reason Musharraf removed the justices in the first place was that they were about ready to issue a ruling that would have invalidated his election. The issue was whether Musharraf could run for president while still Chief of Staff of the Army - a clear violation of the Pakistani constitution which forbids it. It is likely that, if given the opportunity, the judges will nullify Musharraf's victory.
The power sharing deal, announced by Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the largest party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, represented another tough challenge to the already waning authority of Mr. Musharraf, a favorite ally of the Bush administration.
The two men, appearing at a news conference together in the resort area of Bhurban, said they would seek to remove the president’s power to dissolve the Pakistani Parliament and his power to appoint the chiefs of the military services.
Together, the two parties control just shy of two-thirds of the Parliament after an election last month in which Mr. Musharraf’s party was routed. The agreement settled key differences that had clouded the post-election atmosphere.
The reinstatement of the dismissed judges of the Supreme Court and four High Courts in the provinces represents a special danger to Mr. Musharraf because they would likely be presented with petitions seeking to overturn the president’s re-election in October, lawyers said.
It is a hopeful sign that both sides appear to be settling their differences and are able to come together. Former Prime Minister Sharif seemed to have the farthest road to travel for compromise but has managed to work with the PPP and settled all their major differences.
As for reduced powers of the presidency, this is question that Pakistan has been wrestling with since before Musharraf's coup in 1999. No one wants a totally emasculated president who is, after all, commander in chief of the armed forces. But taking away his abilty to dissolve parliament on a whim is completely necessary and will probably strengthen the independence of that body.