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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Musharraf suspends Pakistan’s constitution

While the Pakistani government is calling it emergency rule, the rest of the world is calling it martial law.President and Military General Perez Musharraf has suspended Pakistan’s constitution in an attempt to fight Islamic extremists and their control of territory near the Afghan border.

Musharraf seized power during a coup in 1999 and was expected to step down as military chief and become civilian president this year. Yet he is still Pakistan’s leader and military chief.

“When Musharraf said he couldn’t take off his military uniform, people thought he was just being sentimental,” said associate professor of political science Ken Gilmore. “But apparently he was serious.”

According to Javed Hashmi, the acting president of the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf dismantled Pakistan’s judiciary branch to save his own illegitimate rule.

“The judiciary was Pakistan’s only independently run institution,” Gilmore said. “(By controlling the judiciary) he can prevent the elections from happening.”

In lieu of Musharraf’s actions, hundreds of political activists have been arrested for protesting his military rule including chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jehangir.

“Musharraf’s move (to delay elections) on Saturday was like throwing a ‘wet blanket’ on the problem,” said Rick Barton, a Pakistan expert at the Washington-based Center for International and Strategic Studies to CBS News.

While Musharraf claims that restoring democracy in Pakistan is his goal, Jehangir and the United States government are skeptical. According to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rica, Musharraf’s extra-constitutional measures have crushed Pakistan’s hopes of smoothly returning to democracy.

“Despite the recent chaos, I do hope that Musharraf will live up to his goal and protect the Pakistani people, and run for re-election,” said sophomore Doug Grenier, a past resident of Pakistan.

Whether Musharaf sustains his power through election or not, maintaining two leadership roles simultaneously is problematic.

“He can’t be president and military chief at the same time,” Gilmore said.

However, Musharraf has said that he will step down as military general and act solely as the civilian president once the court confirms his re-election. Additionally, he will lift emergency rule and reinstate the constitution.

Other Pakistani officials have said that emergency rule could be revoked in as early as one month.

The United States government and President Bush have continually asked Musharraf to step down as military general and cease martial law.

Despite Musharraf’s defiance, President Bush has said that Musharraf’s suspending of the constitution will not interfere with United States’ military support of Pakistan in the war on terror.

“With Osama Bin Laden most likely hiding out somewhere (in Pakistan), our government wants an ally in Pakistan,” Gilmore said. “At the same time, Pakistan also needs re-construction and stability.”

Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf’s oppositional leader, believes that Pakistan’s government is on the brink of crumbling at Musharraf’s fingertips.

“Fair elections will not be able to take place as long as Pakistan is under emergency rule,” Bhutto said.

The likelihood of Bhutto serving a third term as Prime Minister is slim, but several weeks ago Bhutto and Musharraf discussed forming a pro-West alliance against Islamic extremists.

“The power struggle between Bhutto and Musharraf is inevitable,” said sophomore political science major Ethan Swensden-Wiley. “But if they were to join forces and form an alliance, the situation in Pakistan could be temporarily stabilized.”

Unless Bhutto and Musharraf form an unlikely power truce behind closed doors, then parliamentary elections will be held no later than Feb. 15, 2008.

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