Musharraf — president and army chief: Benazir questions legality of retaining both offices
* Says govt announcement gave the impression that no army officers were worthy of becoming army chief
ISLAMABAD: Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister and chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), has questioned the legality of the government’s announcement that President Pervez Musharraf would continue as the country’s president and chief of army staff.
In a statement issued on Friday, Ms Bhutto said that she considered vesting military bureaucracy and political administration in one individual reflected a country without a constitution, political system, rules and laws. “It is unfortunate for a nuclear state to be without a political system based on the rule of law,” she said.
Ms Bhutto said that the handpicked administration of Shaukat Aziz, in its first meeting on Wednesday, tried to please the regime by claiming that the Constitution allowed a military chief to simultaneously hold the position of president. She added that this position adversely affected the image of the armed forces and gave the impression that none of the other officers were worthy of holding the post of army chief. She said that it also affected the image of Pakistan. “It was a sad day for Pakistan when the military chief broke his solemn oath to the nation and parliament of taking off his uniform,” said Ms Bhutto.
The former prime minister said that it was in the best national interest that the country moved onto the path of democracy. She noted that a resolution of social issues, including those of women’s rights, literacy, health and successful play of market forces lay in a democratic political system.
Ms Bhutto said that the retention of the office of army chief by President Musharraf would violate Article 244 of the Constitution which barred members of the armed forces from taking part in politics. She said that the real strength of the federation lay in its people. To insist on relegating all the power in one individual based on the strength of the army, as opposed to the constitution, negated democratic principles and the very promise of good governance that the general had initially made, she added.
She said that President Musharraf was exploiting the current war against terrorism to continue to hold both offices. She noted that it was hinted that he needed extra power to face terrorists. She said that the president had enormous powers under the Constitution. He administered the army and ordered postings and appointments as well as sackings. Therefore, the powers of the president were enough to get the support of the armed forces and the civilian government to face all sorts of threats from terrorists, she added.
Ms Bhutto said the PPP would make a strategy with the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy to meet the new challenge thrown by the government.