The reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftkhar Muhammad Chaudhry yesterday brought an end to the government’s imposition of emergency rule over much of the nation and turned massive protests into celebrations in short order. But what Pakistani officials have been trumpeting as cooler heads prevailing may in fact have been brought about by military chief General Parvez Kayani, with no small measure of support from the US and Britain.
Several papers are reporting that in the hours ahead of Chaudhry’s reinstatement, Gen. Kayani delivered a rather stern ultimatum to Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani: accept a deal backed by the US and British governments to reinstate Chaudhry and return the country to normalcy within 24 hours, or the military, with international backing, would oust President Asif Ali Zardari. Gen. Kayani has been averse to military meddling into civilian government affairs, but was under enormous pressure to act after Zardari began ordering troops into cities and mass arresting members of the political opposition.
While the move has been good for the opposition and good for the people of Sindh and Punjab who no longer have to live under emergency rule, the biggest winner may wind up being Gilani himself. He is now seen as having stood up to the increasingly unstable Zardari, and Chaudhry’s reinstatement may find the powers of the presidency reduced in favor of the prime minister and parliament.