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Election Not a Solution to Turmoil in Pakistan

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President George Bush has given advice to President General Pervez Musharraf to hold free and fair elections. But in the present circumstances where Pakistan is the frontline state in war against terrorism there is possibility that elections will further worsen the situation.

The people of Pakistan need education as presently they do not know the importance of democracy. In every election they were seen selling votes just for a few notes. Situation in tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is worse. These people need education. In many cases wrong information is being given to the US President.

A report said that US President George W Bush on Thursday urged President General Pervez Musharraf to hold free and fair elections in Pakistan.

“My focus in terms of the domestic scene there is that he have a free and fair election, and that’s what we’ve been talking to him about and hopeful they will,” Bush said at a White House news conference, according to a transcript received here from the US Federal News Service.

Bush said he and Musharraf had discussed and agreed on the need to go after Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the Pak-Afghan border region. “I have made it clear to him that I would expect there to be full cooperation in sharing intelligence and I believe we’ve got good intelligence sharing,” he said.

He expected “swift action if there’s actionable intelligence on high-value targets inside” Pakistan. “We spend a lot of time with the leadership in Pakistan talking about what we will do with actionable intelligence,” he said. “Am I confident they (terrorists) will be brought to justice? My answer is, ‘Yes I am.”’

Bush was careful to express respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty, following Islamabad’s publicly expressed anger over calls for unilateral US action against Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas. “I recognise Pakistan is a sovereign nation, and that’s important for Americans to recognise,” he said.

Bush said he had seen reports that Gen Musharraf was about to declare emergency rule, but saw no evidence that the Pakistani president had made such a decision.

An editorial of a leading newspaper explained the situation in a better way. It stated that reports emanating from Islamabad say that a proclamation of national Emergency is on the table for the approval of President Pervez Musharraf. In fact, the PML chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, is worried that it might come “within days”.

But the attorney general, Mr Abdul Qayyum, is in denial, saying that no Emergency is being planned; so too is the law minister, Mr Wasi Zafar. But the minister of state for information, Mr Tariq Azeem, says the “option” is still on the table. Off and on since one year, the PML chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, has been hinting at the imposition of Emergency, always adding that, in case it is done the 2007 elections could be postponed for a year under the Constitution.

On the other hand, President Musharraf has always denied the possibility of an Emergency although he apparently never stopped Chaudhry Shujaat from repeating the Emergency mantra. Are we then on the brink of going under Emergency — meaning curtailment of many fundamental rights — as allowed by a number of clauses under Article 232 of the Constitution? The said article lays down the preconditions for emergency as follows:

“If the President is satisfied that a grave emergency exists in which the security of Pakistan, or any part thereof, is threatened by war or external aggression, or by internal disturbance beyond the power of a Provincial Government to control, he may issue a Proclamation of Emergency”. What has changed since last year’s alarms and diversions to make the president step up to the brink, if the reports are true?

It is ironic that the eminent lawyer Mr Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, pleading the case of Mr Nawaz Sharif and others at the Supreme Court for their return to Pakistan, has quoted the very articles that a proclamation of emergency automatically suspends, specifically those that ensure a citizen’s freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. This gives an insight into the thinking of the government if it imposes an Emergency.

The government has announced recommendations to the provinces against the possible threat of terrorist attacks on assemblies of citizens in the days leading up to and on Independence Day on August 14. It has ordered special security measures against possible suicide bombings, including those carried out by women, on the basis of the intelligence it has received. The message in this announcement is that internal security in the country is at risk, and threat to internal security is one of the “preconditions” mentioned in Article 232.

It is true that the government is facing renewed trouble in the Tribal Areas amid threatening statements by the Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri who accuses President Musharraf of making Pakistan “a slave of America”. The peace deals Islamabad made with the Taliban in Waziristan have also fallen apart and the army has gone back into the territory after suffering suicide-bombings in Swat and the Kohat-Bannu area. But this shouldn’t be sufficient reason in the eyes of the government for the imposition of an Emergency.

With the automatic suspension of Articles 15, 16 and 17 pertaining to fundamental rights under Chapter 1 of the Constitution, the government would doubtless arm itself against any agitation which the opposition might plan to stage on the eve of the presidential or general elections after the return home of the ARD leaders, Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mr Nawaz Sharif. Certainly, if the elections are postponed for one year, these leaders may not have the incentive to return home after all, which is what the government wants. In any case, in the eyes of the government, an Emergency would enable it to oust the Supreme Court from its jurisdiction to adjudicate cases pertaining to the leaders’ return.

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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