Monday, November 19, 2007

The Deal Goes Down--For Now

The deal I speculated about here and here —that the U.S. would turn a blind eye to the unconstitutionality of Musharraf’s election as president in return for his promise to govern as a civilian and maybe lift the State of Emergency for the January parliamentary elections, and that the PPP would be inclined to sell out the lawyers and go along--looks like it’s going down.

From the AP :

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A Supreme Court hand-picked by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf swiftly dismissed legal challenges to his continued rule on Monday, opening the way for him to serve another five-year term — this time solely as a civilian president.
Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar dismissed three opposition petitions challenging Musharraf's victory in a disputed presidential election last month, saying two had been "withdrawn" because opposition lawyers were not present in court.

The third was withdrawn by a lawyer for the party of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who suggested the court was illegitimate.

"We asked for (the case) to be postponed because we said there is no constitution," she told reporters in Karachi after a meeting with the U.S. ambassador. She said she had no plans to revive power-sharing negotiations with Musharraf, broken off after the general's decision to declare emergency rule. [emph. added]

To me, it looks like Bhutto went along with the deal and isn’t challenging Musharraf’s gutting of the judiciary—for now.

But she didn't explicitly endorse the legality of Musharraf's presidency, so she retains some democratic-opposition cred.

More importantly, she’s keeping the extremely powerful weapon of a legal challenge in reserve in case Musharraf gets balky either on lifting the State of Emergency or simply giving Bhutto whatever she wants—legal or illegal institutional support or maybe just a free hand--in order to make sure the PPP emerges from the January elections with a powerful position in parliament that assures Bhutto the PM spot.

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