0001193 - Assessing Pakistans Election Wendy J. Chamberlin...

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Spring 2008 The Ambassadors REVIEW 18 Assessing Pakistan’s Election Wendy J. Chamberlin President, The Middle East Institute United States Ambassador to Pakistan, 2001-2002 United States Ambassador to Laos, 1996-1999 omething very positive just happened in “the most dangerous country in the world.” Pakistan surprised the chorus of pundits who predicted the parlia- mentary elections held on February 18, 2008, would not be credible, and the public reaction would turn violent. Instead, Pakistan made history. For the first time in its tumultuous history, a military dictator participated in the peaceful transition to civilian government through democratic elections. To his credit, President Pervez Musharraf responded to internal and international pressure to lift Emergency Rule and to step down as Chief of Army Staff. Nothing is ever as simple as it appears. Just before he relinquished his position as Chief of Army Staff, President Musharraf imposed Emergency Rule. Some call it a military coup. He used the month-long period of Emergency Rule from November 3 to December 15 to change the constitution by fiat in order to remove provisions that made him ineligible to continue as president. His widespread crackdown on independent journalists, judges and lawyers intimidated liberal democratic voices in Pakistan that championed rule of law and democracy. * During Emergency Rule, he also sacked the Supreme Court Chief Iftikhar Chaudhry (who is still under house arrest) and required other judges to take a loyalty oath, leading to the dismissal of some 60 judges. In addition, he assured the Electoral Commission was stacked with his loyalists so that irregularities in the upcoming election would go unheeded. It is no wonder most analysts predicted Election Day rigging would assure Musharraf’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League, Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), a large number of seats in the National Assembly. Those predictions were wrong. Instead, the voters dealt a crushing defeat to President Musharraf and his party. His five-year term as president has just begun, but the opposition will form the government. Leading opposition party leaders, particularly Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif faction (PML-N), are loudly calling for Musharraf’s removal.
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0001193 - Assessing Pakistans Election Wendy J. Chamberlin...

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