Monday, March 24, 2008

Musharraf on the mat

The democratic process has not been good for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, and his time as head of state is running out. The country's National Assembly today chose a loyal supporter of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as prime minister, and Yousaf Raza Gilani ordered the release of Supreme Court justices detained by Musharraf in November. Gilani also called for a U.N. investigation into Bhutto's assassination after her triumphant return from exile last year. Musharraf, who resigned as army head last year after winning a second five-year term as president, had said he wanted to work with the new government, which is now dominated by two anti-Musharraf parties. But Gilani's first moves seem aimed at confrontation, not cooperation, with Musharraf. Musharraf declared a national emergency last November and had the Supreme Court justices removed from office just before they were expected to rule that his re-election was unconstitutional. Shouts of "long live Bhutto" and "Go, Musharraf, go" were heard in the Assembly visitor's gallery after Monday's vote, according to the Reuters international news service. Musharraf seized power in Pakistan in 1999 in a coup that toppled the government led by Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who joined with Bhutto's party in a coalition opposing the former general's rule. But Musharraf has been backed by billions of dollars in aid from the United States, which considers Pakistan a key component of the war on terror.

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