Musharraf's re-election plan a sham: rights body
May 2, 2007 - 1:47:48 PM

Islamabad, May 2 - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's plan to get re-elected by the current parliament and legislatures before the general elections will bypass the democratic process and be a sham, says a rights group.

'Musharraf intends to bypass the democratic process once again by staging an illegal presidential election ahead of the parliamentary vote,' said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch -.

HRW's stand was widely reported in the media Wednesday as opposition at home and criticism abroad mounted since Musharraf's announcement last week, after months of speculation on the subject.

Musharraf, who has made no secret of his plan to stand for a second term, said in an interview last week that the current parliament, where a military-backed party holds a majority, would vote for president by October, before national elections.

The Washington-based human rights group said Musharraf's plan would ensure his re-election as president and continuation as army chief.

Legal experts and opposition groups in Pakistan say the plan to get re-elected by sitting assemblies would be unconstitutional.

'Pakistan needs legitimate parliamentary and presidential elections to get back on the path to genuine democratic rule. Anything else would be a sham,' said HRW.

Under Pakistan's constitution, the National Assembly and Senate - along with the four provincial assemblies - elect the president. The Islamist opposition has warned it might challenge the government through the Supreme Court if Musharraf were to get his term renewed by the current assemblies.

Musharraf, an important US ally who is also army chief, seized power in a 1999 coup. The US has tacitly approved his re-election bid, saying it was for the people of Pakistan to decide the mode of democracy they desire.

'As president, Musharraf has arbitrarily amended the constitution to strengthen the power of the presidency, marginalize elected representatives and formalise the role of the army in government,' HRW said.

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