Pakistan Update: All Challenges Gone?

The Musharraf-selected Pakistan Supreme Court has now cleared the final challenge to President Musharraf’s election in parliament from October, and it’s expected that he will be sworn in when he returns from the pilgrimage to Mecca. Unknown at this time is whether or not he will stay true to word and remove his uniform by resigning his post as Chief of Staff, Army.

He has to be somewhat confident, otherwise he would not have left the country with so much apparent strife over the PCO in the background. Is it Megalomania, or does Musharraf know the people of Pakistan better than most think he does? Time is the arbriter of all.

Meanwhile also in Saudi Arabia, Nawaz Sharif says that he will return in two days:

LAHORE: Former premier Nawaz Sharif has said that he is determined to return to Pakistan within two days and that President General Pervez Musharraf visited Saudi Arabia to discuss the issue of his return with the Saudi king, BBC reported on Wednesday.

Nawaz told BBC that he was expecting a call from Saudi authorities within a day or two so that he could return to Pakistan. “If I have to return to Pakistan then I must return within the next two days because I will need three days to file my nomination papers,” he said.

“[The Saudi government] feels very strongly that I have a duty to perform in Pakistan and a role to play,” Sharif told AP.

However, he said he did not know whether Saudi leaders had actually communicated that to Musharraf when he held talks with them in Riyadh on Tuesday, or if Musharraf had agreed.

Benazir Bhutto has rebuffed calls to boycott the polls and has come to see this contest for what it is: the election to see who will be Prime Minister, coupled with the general elections that will create the face and the form of the new government.

While Musharraf has been mercurial with his timeline on promises, he has stayed true to his overall goal of moving to elections and democracy as measured over time — applying what dictatorial force that he must to inch the country that way. If the elections do occur, and a new government is sent forth, it will become a historic first. (The first full-term Government replaced by Democratic elections — if Pakistan can do that again in five years, then that is something.)

His manipulations have been extremely heavy-handed at times – the suppression of the press, the round up of dissidents, and the PCO itself were all certainly over the top.

However I’m not sure whether the Supreme Court move was uncalled for as it had turned into a political circus by delay of decision on the challenges, and by trying them in the court of public opinion and the press rather than by clear jurisprudence. The court certainly would not have made the 11/15 date with all of the decisions from what I was seeing, and it appears to me that Musharraf probably had handed them a deadline to have the decisions done by.

In the background of this the ex-Chief Justice, Chaudry Iftikhar, is still under house arrest, and lawyers are still protesting and being rounded up. The lawyers represent a small faction without real party, platform, or leader who can communicate. If they allied with one of the main parties it would add to their clout, but that would also take from them forever the mantle of non-partisan justice.

The provinces have interim governments as the old terms expired in the normal run-up to elections, and the care-taker governments are mostly in-place. The mainstream parties, PPP, PML-Q, and PML-N have candidates flocking to fill out their nomination forms at all levels, so they are all treating this as real, and the main parties don’t appear to be boycotting as some fringe parties are trying to convince them to do.

So now on to the main contest in January, and who knows what will come of that? In theory any new government formed could put challenge again to the President if the uniform is not gone, and at that time they would have strong and indisputable backing.

[The information in this report is variously compiled from The Daily Times, Dawn, and The Frontier Post, the opinion and analysis is purely mine.]