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Pakistan: "Civilian Rule"
From a Thursday, November 29, 2007 entry on Informed Comment Global Affairs, a group blog run by Juan Cole, Manan Ahmed, Farideh Farhi, and Barnett R. Rubin
Pervez Musharraf became a civilian* today. The elections are scheduled and candidates across the country are filing their candidacy papers - in great numbers, especially in the troubled regions. This despite great debate across the two major political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz on whether to participate or boycott the elections. Their hesitance is understandable. Pervez Musharraf, as a civilian President will rule under the 1973 Constitution which has the oft-used Eighth Amendment to the Article 58, enacted by the last dictator Zia ul Haq in 1985. The Amendment grants the President the power to "dissolve the National Assembly where, in his opinion," the Government of the Federation cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and appeal to the electorate is necessary". The amendment was used first by Zia ul Haq against the civilian government of Muhammad Khan Junejo, then by Ghulam Ishaq Khan against Benazir Bhutto, then by Ghulam Ishaq Khan against Nawaz Sharif and again by Farooq Leghari against Benazir Bhutto. The last Nawaz Sharif government nullified this power of the President by passing the Thirteenth Amendment Act in 1997. In 2002, under the Legal Framework Order, General Musharraf fixed it right back.
Basically even if these elections take place as scheduled, even if all the political parties participate, even if they are fair, open and untampered elections (to whatever extent possible) ... President Pervez Musharraf can, at his will, dismiss the elected government when he pleases. Historians predicting the future need only point to the past.
Nawaz Sharif's touted return (after his touted unceremonious departure) has caught the attention of those who deem it necessary to find hidden links. It is pretty straightforward: Nawaz Sharif is the protogé of Zia ul Haq and a close intimate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He comes here because they cleared the way with Pervez Musharraf. He does not enjoy a broad support - his party has many other rivals for leadership including his brother, Shahbaz Sharif. Although, he is also not touched by the obvious stain of being a US-engineered candidate. So maybe that helps?
*Those curious about his successor to the military throne, General Kiyani should consult this profile. I venture that he is more in the mold of General Aslam Beg than Zia ul Haq or Pervez Musharraf. It would be interesting to see if he continues his support of Musharraf - the civilian.