Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What was the Court Thinking?

Continuing to peruse coverage of the crisis in Pakistan, I stumbled upon an interesting tidbit in a Times article from a couple of days ago: "A close aide to General Musharraf said the Pakistani leader had decided to declare an emergency when he was told last week by a Supreme Court justice that the court would rule within days that he was ineligible to continue serving as president. The ruling would have been unanimous, according to the aide."


If this is true, of course, it only further confirms that Musharraf's "state of emergency" is nothing more than a naked power grab, but we knew that already. What surprises me, to be frank, is that the Court was actually going to annul the General's election. I had, of course, heard the talk about the Court's deliberations hanging like a "sword of Damocles" over Musharraf's head and such, but from the coverage I was reading it seemed fairly obvious that he was never going to let himself be removed from power by judicial fiat. To rule against the General struck me as the Court's "Samson option," allowing them to deal a body blow to Musharraf if he did not play ball, remove his uniform and allow free parlimentary elections, but at the cost of forcing the General to reinstitute military rule, albiet with much-weakened credibility.

Why, then, did members of the Court not try to use their upcoming ruling as a backroom bargaining chip to wrest political concessions from Musharraf without backing him into a corner? If they in fact tried to do that and failed, why did they not issue their ruling immediately before Musharraf could take extraconstitutional steps? I don't live in Pakistan, and I know little about the people and personalities that make up the Pakistani Supreme Court, but as a casual observer it strikes me that the Judges massively overplayed their collective hands.

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