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Monday, November 01, 2004

Musharraf dual role approved


Pakistan's upper house of parliament has passed a bill to allow President Pervez Musharraf to stay on as army chief despite his pledge to give up the post by the end of the year. The bill, passed on October 15 by the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, now needs only to be signed by Musharraf to become law. It was passed by a voice vote in the Senate, or upper house, amid noisy protests from the opposition. It calls for the president to be allowed to hold two offices to facilitate the war on terror and safeguard Pakistan's territorial integrity. Under a deal last year with the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Islamic opposition alliance, Musharraf pledged to stand down as army chief by December 31 in return for their support for constitutional changes that gave him sweeping powers to sack parliament and dismiss the government.
The idealistic, pro-democracy part of me hates this development. One of the key signs that a nation is truley a democracy is when the military no longer controls the county. In a democracy, the military is the servant, not the master. Pakistan is still a long way from this ideal, and this decision doesn't move it any closer. One the other hand, the real-politic side of me is somewhat relieved by this. The decision was at least voted on my the Pakistani parliament, and a strong Musharraf is a good thing, with much of the Pakistani military and ISI being heavily infiltrated by Islamist sympathizers and Pakistan possessing nuclear weapons. Musharraf may not be the best guy in the world, but he is on our side, and while somewhat undemocratic, he is not a total thug either.


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