WASHINGTON (AFP) — Pakistan’s cricket hero-turned-politician Imran Khan called on the United States to pressure President Pervez Musharraf to reinstate sacked top judges or face the prospect of Kenya-type post-election violence.
Khan, speaking in Washington, said that if Musharraf, a key US “war on terror” ally, rigged February 18 parliamentary elections as speculated, “it is, in fact, going to exacerbate everything.
“The chances are that we would have a Kenya-type situation, where people are not going to accept their election results” and “the country will sink into a deeper crisis,” warned Khan, leader of the marginal Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party, which is boycotting the polls.
Kenya’s disputed December 27 elections followed weeks of violence in which close to 800 people have died and a quarter of a million displaced.
Khan regretted that President George W. Bush’s administration had not pushed Musharraf for the reinstatement of the deposed chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad, who is under house arrest.
Muhammad and about three dozen judges were removed when Musharraf imposed emergency rule in November last year.
Musharraf has lifted the emergency but vowed that the judges will not be given back their jobs. Critics say Musharraf purged the courts in order to block any challenges to his October re-election.
“The US government should insist that the legitimate judiciary, which is still, according to the constitution, the chief justice of Pakistan, who is Chief Justice Iftikhar, and all of the judges should be reinstated,” Khan said.
“And they should then supervise free and fair elections in Pakistan. In my opinion, that is the only way out of this quagmire. Any other way, the situation is going to get worse,” he said at a forum jointly organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Asia Society.
He said the Bush administration should remember that “the whole country is standing behind the judges” and that Musharraf imposed the emergency “to destroy the independent judiciary.”
More than 75 percent of Pakistanis surveyed wanted Musharraf to go while the same number of people wanted the chief justice to be reinstated, Khan said, citing a poll by the International Republican Institute, a group affiliated with Bush’s Republican Party and which promotes democracy abroad.
With Musharraf’s popularity plummeting, Khan warned of a backlash for the United States, which he said was pursuing a “deeply flawed strategy of backing one man rather than the democratic process” in Pakistan.
He likened the current situation in Pakistan to America’s overt support for the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran, whose corrupt and brutal rule led to an Islamic revolution and subsequent seizure of the US embassy in 1979.
“It is a similar situation to what happened in Iran at the time of the Shah,” he said. “In fact, all of the anti-Musharraf sentiment is also going against the US.” Khan, who met key lawmakers from the US House of Representatives and Senate during his visit, said that he was surprised that Washington had provided the Musharraf administration with 10 billion dollars of aid since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Khan said the figure was not mentioned in Pakistan’s parliament, from which he has quit in protest in October.
“I in the parliament knew nothing about it. And if I in parliament knew nothing about it, the people know nothing about it,” he said, underlining lack of public accountability and accusing Musharraf of using parliament as “rubber stamp.”Top