Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Technicality Of Dictatorship

By Cernig

Now that Musharraf is to step down tomorrow as titular head of a Pakistani military that is packed with his loyalists in senior positions, here's the new meme from your friendly neighbourhood wingnut bloggers:
Ever notice how our media is careful to never mention what the Supreme Court had to decide about the elections?

It was a procedural question, about whether someone can run for the Presidency while being in the military. Even if it was understood he would step down if elected.

Well, he did step down. So it is the most minor of a technicality.
It is also, I assume, merely a technicality that he sacked the Supreme Court; packed the new Court with yes-men; declared a State of Emergency; rounded up, beat and intimidated his political opponents and may well continue the state of emergency right through the next elections - all to further supress democratic dissent. Even on the face of it, this is one of the more ridiculous claims to come from wingnuttia's "freedom-supporting" inhabitants.

But it's also blatantly untrue in detail, as was explained at the time:
Opposition parties have raised at least five objections against Musharraf's nomination as president, and since most of them touch on the Constitution, the objections will go to the Supreme Court for a decision, Khakwani said.

Among the thorniest of problems is the question whether Musharraf, 64, who seized power in a coup in 1999 and then was voted president by referendum in 2002, can be considered to have already served the maximum two consecutive terms in office.

Then there is the fact that he holds two official posts, as president and army chief of staff, which is not allowed in the Constitution. If he resigns his army post, then by law he should allow two years to lapse before running for elected office.

There is also a question of whether he can be chosen for a new five-year term by the outgoing National Assembly. That body will be dissolved immediately after the presidential election, which is conducted by an electoral college of the national and provincial Parliaments from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
So no, it wasn't just about the "technicality" of the uniform after all. It's about tearing a gaping hole in the Pakistani constitution - a fact his biggest rivals are quick to trumpet while at the same time accepting his largesse in trampling the constitution in order to give them both a third crack at a Prime Ministerial position which is two-term limited.

(If you had entertained the possibility that Pakistan's biggest problem right now is the three old dinosaurs fighting over which one gets to be T-Rex, you might well be correct in doing so.)

Imran Khan tore up his nomination papers and claimed that contesting the elections amounted to legalising unconstitutional acts of Musharraf. He said: "I feel that even filing of nomination papers amounts to betrayal of the judiciary."

It's depressing to know that constitutions and the rule of law mean less to US Republicans than their fear-laden War On (Some) Terror, even if the soft totalitarians and hardline dictators they support are only pretending to fight it. Depressing, but unsurprising.

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