With so much drama already surrounding the upcoming General Elections, it appears we might have to add another controversy to the mix. The Supreme Court has allowed former president retd Gen Pervez Musharraf to file his nomination papers to contest July 25 general elections on the condition that he would appear in person before the court on June 13 in Lahore to attend the court hearing. General Musharraf had previously been declared disqualified for life by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in 2013 in view of the 2009 July 31 Supreme Court judgement in which the Nov 3, 2007 emergency was declared illegal.
It could be argued that legally Musharraf should be allowed to contest, since ECP rules do not bar candidates with cases pending from contesting. However, considering that the past year was rife with issues of accountability from parliamentarians and several disqualifications for violating the constitution, this SC judgment is certainly a shock. There is painstaking irony in the fact that Musharraf, someone who directly abrogated the Constitution, is allowed by the SC to contest in the elections, yet everyday parliamentarians are being disqualified left and right for discrepancies in their declaration of assets. Allowing a past dictator who set aside the constitution contest in elections undermines the precedent the SC set for itself in the disqualification cases against Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen, on accountability and rule of law for parliamentarians.
What is even more ironic is that the reasons listed in Gen. Musharraf’s petition against disqualification parallel the petitions given by Jahangir Tareen and Nawaz Sharif. Like the review petition of Nawaz, Musharraf’s petition also questioned whether imposition of a life-time disqualification and ineligibility was an excessive exercise of judicial authority that failed to the test of a constitutional judgement. The dichotomy between the decisions, of disqualifying the leader of a major political party, and allowing a past dictator to contest, will not be missed by the masses.
All said and done, it will be interesting to see where Musharraf fits in the current political landscape. We will just have to wait out and see whether Musharraf will be tendentious towards the political positions of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI), as it has been predicted, or whether he will lend support to the more sinister religious parties that have seen a boost in popularity, and which are looking for a vacuum to fill.