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International
Last Updated: November 11, 2007
Catastrophe in Pakistan
By Soli J. Sorabjee

Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make them mad. General Musharraf has done what no military ruler in Pakistan has been mad enough even to attempt. In effect he has declared a war on the Constitution and the fundamental rights of the people, on the press and the nation's top judiciary. What is the justification? The usual pretext of threat to national security. In reality, it is to pre-empt a likely adverse verdict by the Supreme Court against the general in his pending election case. Musharraf cannot tolerate an independent judiciary striking down orders that are unconstitutional. He regards this as constant interference by the judiciary.

The most obnoxious part is the emasculation of the Supreme Court and the humiliation heaped upon Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has been forced to vacate his office and is under house arrest. Justice Hameed Dogar, fourth in line of seniority, has been appointed chief justice by Musharraf under the new provisional constitutional order. Promptly Chief Justice Dogar cancelled the hearing of the cases pending in the Supreme Court against Musharraf. The cat is out of the bag.

Judges are required to take oath under the new provisional constitutional order. No self-respecting judge will do so. But alas, there will be obliging judges who will replace them and do the general's bidding. And all these condemnable actions are to keep the general in the saddle. What a catastrophic folly! What a suicidal blunder!

The US's staunch ally in the war on terror has turned out to be its staunch enemy on civil liberties and democracy. The US has limited options. It cannot afford to cut off military aid to Pakistan because that would enable the Jihadi and pro-Taliban elements to gain ground, a worrying development for us. However, the US must act swiftly and press for the release of Chief Justice Chaudhry, Pakistani lawyers, media persons and human rights activists. It should also press for early free and fair elections under international supervision.

 


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