Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Musharraf "Lambasted" by Former Judge

On Wednesday, Pakistan's deposed top judge Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry described President Pervez Musharraf as an "extremist general" after sacking him and 60 other top judges, reported BBC News today. The story was covered by several news agencies on Wednesday, including the UK's Guardian Unlimited, which reported, "Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudry, who was sacked when Musharraf declared emergency rule last November, said in a letter to western leaders that his wife and three children, one of whom has special needs, were even forbidden from going on to the front lawn of their home in Islamabad as it was occupied by police." A seven-page statement released by "sympathetic lawyers" in Islamabad noted, "Barbed-wire barricades surround the residence and all phone lines are cut."

During his visit to Europe last week, Musharraf told leaders he was "the best hope for democracy" and attacked the supreme court justice, calling him "corrupt and inept." On Wednesday, Chaudry hit back, asserting, "Is there a precedent in history, all history, of 60 judges including three chief justices (of Pakistani Supreme and two of the High Courts), being dismissed and arrested at the whim of one man? This incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist general out on a 'charm offensive' of Western capitals and one whom the West supports." On the subject of democracy, the deposed chief justice wrote, "What the general has done has serious implications for Pakistan and the world. Some western governments are emphasising the unfolding of the democratic process in Pakistan. That is welcome, if it is fair. But how can there be democracy if there is no independent judiciary?"

In a development related to the issue of free elections and the democratic process, news sources today also reported that the U.S. State Department expects the upcoming Pakistani elections to be "tainted" and called on all groups, including international monitors, "to keep a tight scrutiny on the landmark event." The AFP cited statements made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who said at a recent Congressional hearing,
"We don't necessarily accept a certain level of fraud but if history is any guide and reports are any guide, we should expect some." According to Pakistan's Daily Times, Boucher assured that "the U.S. is doing everything it can to ensure a fair election, including preparing teams from the U.S. Embassy to monitor major races around the country." The Times added, "Asked if the situation in Pakistan could develop like the one in Kenya, where fighting after disputed elections has resulted in hundreds of deaths, he said, 'We’ll know in two weeks.'"

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