Pakistan Gives Musharraf Confidence Vote as President
By AMY WALDMAN
Published: January 2, 2004
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 1 — Gen. Pervez Musharraf won a vote of confidence on Thursday from Pakistan's electoral college, allowing him legally to remain president into 2007. The vote completes General Musharraf's transformation from a military dictator who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999 to a constitutionally legitimate president.
General Musharraf won 56 percent of the vote in the electoral college, which consists of Parliament and the country's four provincial assemblies. His support largely came from the governing coalition. Most opposition parties abstained from or boycotted the vote to protest his policies or his retaining unelected power.
Among those abstaining or boycotting were most members of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amals, the coalition of religious parties that last week reached agreement with General Musharraf to legitimize his rule and legitimize a series of constitutional changes he made last year to indemnify himself from prosecution for the 1999 coup. In return the parties won General Musharraf's agreement to step down as Army chief in a year, and received assurance that any decision to dismiss the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, would have to be ratified by the Supreme Court. The action ended a yearlong parliamentary stalemate.
Members of the religious coalition insisted that their arrangement with General Musharraf did not equal agreement with his policies, particularly his support for the American war on terror, which they have openly criticized. The Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, a coalition of 15 parties, which includes the supporters of the former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, also did not vote for the president.
The vote reinforced the uneven support for General Musharraf across the country. In Punjab, the military's heartland, he won 254 of 371 votes. But in Baluchistan, he won only 28 of 65 votes.
General Musharraf made himself president in 2001, then sought to legitimize his self-elevation with a referendum last year in which he won 98 percent of the vote. Opposition parties and international observers criticized the referendum as rigged.
In elections for Parliament and the provincial assemblies a few months later, the Islamic parties won record support, largely because General Musharraf had worked to marginalize the secular parties led by Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif. They then challenged a series of constitutional changes General Musharraf had made last year, many of which would further institutionalize the role of the military in governing the country.
General Musharraf made a series of speeches in the past several days to electoral college members, defending his policies and his vision for Pakistan. The speeches made clear that despite surviving two assassination attempts last month, General Musharraf remained wedded in principle to a moderate, tolerant Islam and to keeping Pakistan in the international community's good graces.
The vote came just before a summit meeting of regional leaders here, set to begin on Sunday. Among those present will be the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with whom General Musharraf has had a rocky relationship. There is still no clear indication whether the two leaders will meet.