New York, Oct 24: New York-based Human Rights Watch has severely criticised Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for initiating veiled attacks on Supreme Court and for intimidating judges ahead of the apex court's decisions on the legality of the controversial October 6 Presidential elections.
"The government is attempting to frighten the judiciary into submission and is holding Pakistan, its Constitution and its people hostage to Musharraf's desire to cling to power," the Dawn quoted Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, as saying.
The relationship between the executive and the Supreme Court in Pakistan has been strained since Musharraf's controversial move to sack Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, only to reinstate him in July after the Supreme Court Judicial Council termed the executive's decision illegal.
The Supreme Court is presently hearing a petition challenging the validity of the October 6 presidential polls and the legality of Musharraf's candidature, but as judgement day nears, federal government ministers have initiated veiled threats against the judges.
On October 16, a day before the Supreme Court resumed hearings into the case, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi was quoted by the daily, as saying: "The imposition of martial law can't be ruled out if the Supreme Court decides that President Musharraf's re-election is invalid."
Noting the statement, Human Rights Watch observed that the government ministers had repeatedly said that if the Supreme Court rules Musharraf's election as illegal, the military could suspend the Constitution, impose martial law and fire the judges.
With Musharraf making it clear that he would resign from the post of Army Chief only after the apex court validates his re-election, Adams said, "Musharraf seems to be giving the Pakistani people an impossible choice: 'democracy' if he succeeds in his bid to stay in power or martial law if the judiciary tries to prevent him from remaining in office."
"After eight years of military rule, Pakistan needs legitimate parliamentary and presidential elections to get back on the path to genuine democratic rule," he added.
Human Rights Watch also urged Washington and London to prevail over the Musharraf regime and help in the immediate restoration of a constitutional civilian rule.