Last legal hurdle in Musharraf’s second term cleared

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : The last legal hurdle in the way to President Pervez Musharraf’s second term in office was cleared Thursday with the Supreme Court dismissing the final petition against his candidature and re-election. Musharraf has promised he will step down as army chief this week after the court decides in his favour.

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The 10-member bench headed by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar dismissed the sixth and last petition challenging the president’s re-election. “The petition is dismissed,” the chief justice announced in his short order, for which reasons would be given later.

With the dismissal of the petition, all hurdles are clear for Musharraf to continue in presidency and take oath as a civilian president.

“The president will take oath of office as civilian president soon after the notification of his success is issued by the Election Commission,” his lawyer Sharifuddin Pirzada told journalists after the hearing.

Last month, the court while hearing petitions against Musharraf’s running for a second term allowed the Oct 6 polls to take place but asked the Election Commission to withhold his notification until the apex court concluded the hearing.

The court was about to give its verdict when on Nov 3 Musharraf imposed emergency in the country and terminated the services of 14 of the 19 judges and appointed his loyalists as the judges of the apex court.

A top government official on condition of anonymity said the Election Commission would be issuing notification on Musharraf’s success in the presidential polls by Thursday evening or Friday morning and he could take oath of the office Friday evening as civilian president.

“The Election Commission has received the Supreme Court order and definitely we’ll act according to the court ruling,” an official of the Election Commission told IANS without giving the specific time when they would be issuing the notification.

Musharraf, who is under tremendous pressure from international and national quarters over his holding two offices – of president and army chief – is said to be ready to quit the army chief’s position and hand over power to his deputy General Ashfaq Kiani.

Just two days before the court decision, Musharraf held a crucial meeting with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia in the presence of the Saudi intelligence chief.

Though both the sides – Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and the presidency in Islamabad – have denied the meeting, sources said this was held to allow Sharif back in country.

“After failure of the power sharing talks with another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, this meeting was important,” said an official privy to developments.

According to the official, most of the members of the outgoing ruling Muslim League prefer Sharif over Bhutto.

“Musharraf was also under pressure from these people who had served him for more than eight years and helped him in continuing as military ruler,” said the official.