Pakistan: Musharraf Proposes Sham Election Plan

May. 02, 2007

Pakistan’s Military Leader Must Step Down as President or Army Chief

(Washington, DC, May 1, 2007) Pakistani President General Pervez
Musharraf’s insistence on holding onto the office of army chief as well as
the presidency prevents Pakistan from returning to the rule of law under its
constitution, Human Rights Watch said today.

Musharraf plans to hold national and provincial assembly votes for the
presidency before the general elections due by the end of the year to
ensure his reelection as a president in uniform. Pakistan’s constitution
requires that the National Assembly, Senate and the four provincial
assemblies elect the president.

Under the Pakistani constitution, however, a presidential election would
be illegal unless Musharraf ceases to be army chief. In an April 27
newspaper interview, Musharraf said that the current parliament, where a
military-backed party holds a majority, would vote for president by
October, before national elections in November. This would ensure his
reelection as president and continuation as army chief. The tenure of the
current assemblies is scheduled to expire in October.

“Musharraf intends to bypass the democratic process once again by
staging an illegal presidential election ahead of the parliamentary vote,”
said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Pakistan needs
legitimate parliamentary and presidential elections to get back on the path
to genuine democratic rule. Anything else would be a sham.”

Since taking power in a 1999 coup, Musharraf has remained as army chief
and president, even though the Pakistani constitution prohibits the chief of
the army from holding political office. In 2003, Musharraf pledged to cede
one of the posts by December 2004. But he publicly reneged on this
pledge a year later.

As president, Musharraf has arbitrarily amended the Pakistani constitution
to strengthen the power of the presidency, marginalize elected
representatives, and formalize the role of the army in government. Under
Musharraf, military impunity for abuses has increased manifold. These
abuses include extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and the
persecution of political opponents.

On March 9, Musharraf summoned the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s
Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhury, to his office and illegally
suspended him for alleged “misuse of office.” The move has sparked
outrage across Pakistan and has been condemned by international and
Pakistani lawyers’ bodies and human rights groups.

The constitutional crisis over the judiciary has been exacerbated by
Musharraf’s latest statements concerning the presidential elections.
“Elections in Pakistan will be held, I think, in November,” Musharraf said
in the April 27 newspaper interview. “I expect the political grouping that
supports me to win again, although my mandate will be extended in
September or October in the parliament.”

“Musharraf has made the presidency the most powerful position in the
country,” said Adams. “It’s vital that Pakistani voters decide who holds
this position, not the army or Musharraf himself.”

Human Rights Watch called on Musharraf’s international supporters,
particularly the United States and United Kingdom, to press Musharraf to
prepare free and fair elections to facilitate a genuine return to civilian rule.
The United States has put hardly any pressure on Musharraf to step down
as army chief or president since he reneged on his promise. US and British
officials have consistently defended Musharraf’s rule.

“The Bush administration claims that democracy is one of its foreign
policy priorities, but it has failed to pressure Musharraf to end military
rule,” said Adams “Now the question is whether the US, Britain or
Pakistan’s other allies will insist upon an election in which Pakistanis
choose their own leaders.”

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Pakistan, please visit:

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