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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Backgrounder: Pakistan's Institutions and Civil Society

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer

Updated: December 27, 2007


Pakistan’s army and its intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), have long been on top of the power structure in the country. Through coups, support of militants, and interference in their neighboring countries’ affairs, they have directly or indirectly held onto power and been at the center of major decision making in the country since its creation in August 1947. Militant Islamic groups are the other powerful players, sometimes standing on the same side as the government, as in the case of jihadis trained and recruited to fight wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan, and sometimes against the government—as with those challenging Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s rule today.

As Pakistan’s president and its army chief, Musharraf has targeted the country’s judiciary as specifically as he has extremists in his justification of the imposition of emergency rule in November 2007. One of the first steps Musharraf took under emergency rule was to replace Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who he had initially tried to dismiss in March 2007. Musharraf then moved to crack down on the media, lawyers, social activists, and secular and religious political opponents. Who are these emerging players in Pakistani society and how do they fit in the power dynamics of a state dominated by the military?

Supreme Court and the Judiciary

The chief justice of the supreme court is appointed by the president. According to the Pakistani Constitution, the judiciary is separate from the executive and is set up as an independent authority to uphold the rule of law. The supreme court stands at the apex of the country’s judicial systems; it has wide jurisdiction, which includes the ability to issue pronouncements on issues it considers of public importance with reference to the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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