Friday, July 20, 2007

Pakistan - Charges Against Chief Justice Thrown Out

By Cernig

The Pakistani Supreme Court has dealt a major blow to Musharaff's credibility, which he has been forced to swallow because he has insufficient political capital left to chance ignoring it.
The Supreme Court on Friday reinstated Pakistan's top judge, ruling that his suspension by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf was illegal and dealing a major blow to the authority of the staunch U.S. ally.

The ruling to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry is probably the biggest challenge to Musharraf's dominance since he seized power in a coup in 1999. It could further complicate his bid to win a new five-year presidential term this fall and comes at a time when Islamic militants are on the offensive.

Lawyers celebrated outside the court, chanting ``Go, Musharraf, go!'' The verdict also prompted celebrations among gatherings of hundreds of lawyers in major cities, including Karachi, Multan, Faisalabad, Quetta, Peshawar and Rawalpindi.

``Thank God, we got justice,'' said Ahsan Bhund, president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, as he marched on a main city road with 500 other lawyers.

In a brief statement, a spokesman for Musharraf said he accepted the ruling by presiding Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday that the president's order suspending Chaudhry was ``set aside as being illegal.''

``The president respects the decision of the Supreme Court,'' Musharraf's spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, was quoted as saying by state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. ``The president has stated earlier that any judgment the Supreme Court arrives at will be honored, respected and adhered to.''

Exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto declared it to be one of the most remarkable judgments in the history of Pakistan's judiciary.

The movement in support of Chaudhry had ``turned into struggle against dictatorship, (for the) restoration of the Constitution and for supremacy of the Parliament,'' she said in a statement.
The short version of what comes next - Musharaff is toast. Assailed by both sides, from pro-democracy critics and from once-supportive Islamists, his days are numbered.

Given that realization, the next big question is whether the military will go along with increased democracy or will instead decide to mount a mini-coup and replace Musharaff with a new president-in-uniform. Remember, this all began because Musharaff was trying to renege on a promise to take his uniform off before the next presidential elections. However, that promise was a personal one and wouldn't apply to any new dictator/president the military installed before new elections could be held.

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