Pakistan’s Sham Elections…Again

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Once again, Pakistan is preparing for an election that is suspect, where General Musharraf will seek another five-year term.

The presidential “election,” which will take place on October 6, 2007, will be far from fair and free: Pakistan’s presidents are selected by an electoral college which is made up of the national and provincial assemblies. Yet the current parliament is a result of the rigged 2002 “elections.” The current parliament’s term is up come November, making the October date timely for Musharraf.

Musharraf’s bid for re-election was approved on Friday by the Supreme Court, which threw out petitions contesting the constitutional legality of Musharraf seeking a re-election while keeping his military uniform on. Upon hearing the verdict, Pakistani lawyers in the courtroom angrily bellowed, “Shame, shame!” and “Go Musharraf, go!” Musharraf claims that if he “wins” (which he most certainly will), he’ll take off his uniform before the presidential inauguration. Let’s not bet on it.

Last weekend, prior to the verdict, Musharraf started locking up opposition members (which some say number in the thousands) in an effort to thwart protests that seized the day when Musharraf filed his nomination. These detentions prompted the normally reticent US Embassy in Islamabad to issue a press release stating:

The reports of arrests of the leadership of several major Pakistani political parties are extremely disturbing and confusing for the friends of Pakistan. We wish to express our serious concern about these developments. These detainees should be released as soon as possible.

Chief Justice Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the government to free hundreds of activists on Thursday. Then on Saturday lawyers, journalists, and activists observed a “black day” to protest Musharraf’s bid. The Islamabad police cracked down on the protesters, injuring roughly 83 people. (The chief of police and two senior officials have since been suspended.)

But there are no worries for Musharraf and his allies. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz claims that this electoral process will put Pakistan on the path of democracy, and Pakistan’s friend in need- the US- says that the Supreme Court’s verdict was “based on the Constitution and existing laws of Pakistan. We do not want to make any sort of assessments.” What was omitted was that the Constitution and “existing laws” of Pakistan have been tweaked by the General in order to allow him to hold both the army chief and presidential posts concurrently.

— Neha Inamdar

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