Don’t let Musharraf get away with what he has just done

The situation in Pakistan has been tense for months for a number of reasons: the illegal steps by General Musharraf to grant amnesty to Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan despite charges of corruption, the decreasing popularity of the military regime, fall of Pakistan’s mercenary forces in the eyes of general public, bloody adventures in Waziristan and lately in Swat in a bid to curry favours with Washington and the battle with Pakistan’s judiciary are just some of the headaches that the South Asian country were facing.

On Saturday, those complications came to a head as dictator Musharraf announced that he’d be imposing martial law. Pakistani television and Reuters are reporting that the constitution has been suspended. The move was rejected by members of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Mr. Chaudhry has had a long history of opposing Mr. Musharraf.

The military regime has now removed Mr. Chaudhry and appointed Mr. Dogar as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. In the PCO, the military regime has specifically accused the Supreme Court of becoming a hurdle in the way of the war on terror. These allegations is the only way, it can sell martial law to the outside world. Dr. Shahid Iqbal reported on Geo TV that officials of the military government were already visiting and meeting officials of the Western embassies, telling them that the Supreme Court is undermining the regime’s efforts in the "war on terror." It is important to note that just last week the Supreme Court told the military regime to release all the illegally detained persons by the 13th of November 2007.

This shows that the US-led war of terror needs the Supreme Court to submit to the will of a dictatorial regime and let the intelligence agencies detain and torture their fellow citizen’s indefinitely without charging them.

The Musharraf’s declaration of emergency also coincides with the US military exercises in the Gulf and Condoleezza Rice visit to China. May be the US could not afford a civilian government setting in Pakistan when it goes to war on Iran.

So, the imposition of emergency in Pakistan is directed at the Supreme Court in particular and serving the US interests in the region in general.

In his speech to the nation, Musharraf tried to lump judiciary with “extremism” in the country, as if the Supreme Court was responsible for all that was happening in the country. He alleged that the Supreme Court released 61 terrorists. It is interesting that he is lumping these two, totally separate issues together. As far the Supreme Court’s decisions are concerned, the court asked the government if it had any case against people who were detained for the past many years. The regime responded that it has no charges. So the Court had no option for to order them released. Other than that, the court had yet to decide about the fate of the General but an insider informed him that the decision is going to be against his “re-election,” which forced the General into taking this rash decision of teaching the judges a lesson in submission.

In short the dictators told a new round of lies to the nation and expect everyone to accept arrest of the judges, top lawyers, political leaders, dismissal of the superior judges, removal of the Supreme Court Registrar, taking TV channels off air, ransacking Aaaj TV station and confiscating broadcasting equipment –” all in the name of democracy through General Pervez Musharraf.

All criticism of Musharraf’s declaring an emergency in the Western circles will be utterly meaningless if Musharraf is left to get away with the changes he has made under the cover of emergency declared on Nov 3, 2007.

His removal of the judges of the Supreme Court in particular need not be ignored at any cost. This is what he wanted to avoid a legal decision on his illegitimate and unconstitutional act of "electing" himself to the position of president.

Musharraf might get away with it by holding elections and allowing new assemblies to take oath, removing his uniform and lifting the emergency. However, in the process the Supreme Court judges would be gone, who were going to decide if his actions were constitutional thus far and if he was eligible to rule for another five years. The criminal acts undertaken under the cover of emergency rule must not be considered legitimate.

The Court had already declared the imposition of recent emergency void. It had decided to further discuss it on Monday November the 5th. One dictator must not be allowed to single headedly go against the superior court of the country and toss around the judges and registrar like toys. Pakistan is not his personal property that he should play around with its institutions like this. This abuse of power must not be accepted.

Supreme Court of Nov 3 must be restored and Musharraf must be removed. Without this removal and restoration, mere elections will never bring true democracy to Pakistan.