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Sunday, August 31, 2008

What a bloody mess! - Ardeshir Cowasjee

The FT report opens “Asif Ali Zardari, the leading contender for the presidency of nuclear-armed Pakistan, was suffering from severe psychiatric problems as recently as last year, according to court documents filed by his doctors.” Presidential candidate Zardari has been diagnosed as suffering from “emotional instability”, memory loss and concentration problems, and major depressive disorder. These court papers have caused alarm amongst the citizens of his country who question his ability, and his fitness, to occupy the presidential chair.

Now, constitutionally where does Zardari stand in view of the court-backed doubts about his mental state? The president, under Article 41(2) is required to be “qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly”. According to Article 63(a) a person is disqualified to be a member of the National Assembly if “he is of unsound mind and has been so declared by a competent court”.

The court in London accepted the psychiatrists’ certificates and acted upon them. Zardari, if he wishes to deny the diagnoses, must plead that the London court is incompetent and that the psychiatrists were falsifying. We must go with an editorial of Aug 28 which counselled that “It would be unwise to dismiss the recent revelations about the fragile state of Mr Asif Zardari’s mental health as irrelevant,” and asked “Does the country really need another potentially deluded individual to lead it through these troubled times?” Now, let us revert to our mutilated almost incomprehensible constitution which as far as Article 62 goes is clear. To qualify as a member of the National Assembly, and thus to be able to contest the presidential election, a man must be “of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions”, and he must be “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen”. No further comment is necessary.


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