Saturday, March 1, 2008

Besieged Musharraf offers deal on judges

PAKISTAN President Pervez Musharraf has offered a deal to the winners of last week's elections - to reinstate the chief justice if moves to impeach him in the new parliament are abandoned.

In a sudden backflip, Mr Musharraf reportedly sent an urgent message to Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People's Party, offering to restore chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and more than 60 other judges to their posts.
In return, Mr Musharraf, his position increasingly isolated amid signs the US is backing away from his leadership, sought assurances that moves to impeach him would be quashed.
Chief justice Chaudhry has been held under house arrest since the then General Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3. His reinstatement, with that of other judges, is regarded as the key issue in Pakistan's political turmoil.
Last week, even after voters had spurned him and the party that supported him, Mr Musharraf boasted he could conceive of no circumstances in which chief justice Chaudhry could be restored to the Supreme Court.
But an official was quoted yesterday as saying that "the presidency is (now) ready to restore the judges provided they don't sit on benches hearing cases against the President".
The official indicated Mr Musharraf had caved in to other key demands from the victorious coalition, saying: "President Musharraf has also agreed to forgo powers of sacking parliament and appointing service chiefs." Sources close to Mr Zardari, widower of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, said the PPP leader had promised to discuss the offer with the new Government.
It seems unlikely to prove acceptable to the new "grand coalition", which believes that Mr Musharraf has no choice but to accept "the mandate of the people" and quit office after the party aligned to him was beaten in last week's elections.
The offer is also unlikely to be acceptable to the powerful community of lawyers, which has led agitation against Mr Musharraf since he first attempted to sack chief justice Chaudhry on March 9 last year. Coalition leaders and lawyers are demanding the chief justice be restored to hear cases about Mr Musharraf's legitimacy.
Mr Musharraf affirmed yesterday that he had no intention of resigning, telling parliamentarians from his defeated Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid) party: "I am elected for five years and will continue to play my role. I will not resign."
Washington indicated a shift in its support for Mr Musharraf. US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, regarded as the most determined exponent of the Bush administration's embrace of Mr Musharraf, spoke of Washington's support for Pakistan's people rather than the President.
In testimony before the US Senate's foreign relations committee, Mr Negroponte made scant reference to Mr Musharraf, emphasising that the US "looks forward to working with the new Pakistani leadership".
He told senators "Pakistan has been indispensable" in the fight against extremists and that the US "looks forward to working with the leaders who emerge".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that sounds fair game... let the judges be back, but Musharraf can linger on and his case would be decided by the other judges...

it appears that once the judges are back, democratic Pakistan would be standing on its own feet, and the whether or not the judges kick him out, something or another will.

So if that's the offer, I say you take it