Pakistan amends rules for Musharraf re-election

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : The Election Commission of Pakistan has amended the rules governing presidential candidates to pave the way for Pervez Musharraf’s re-election as president for five more years, a minister said Sunday.

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“The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has amended the rules and now President Musharraf is very much eligible to contest for another five-year term,” Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan told IANS.

He said very few people were aware that the Election Commission does not hold the presidential election. Rather, the CEC is solely responsible for conducting the poll.

“The CEC has issued a notification, which has become part of the official gazette, under which Musharraf can contest the election,” said Afgan.

He added that after the notification, the tag of “government employee” does not apply to the president.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Election Commission said that except for CEC no other official in the poll panel was involved in the president’s election.

The CEC, Justice (retired) Qazi Muhammad Farooq, was not available for comment.

Article 43 (1) of the constitution says: “The president shall not hold any office of profit in the service of Pakistan or occupy any other position carrying the right to remuneration for the rendering of services.”

Asked about this clause, Afgan, a MP since 1985, said he was aware of each and every clause and was confident that President Musharraf can contest the election for a second term.

“I know better than anyone else… He is very much eligible to contest.”

On the other hand, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) leadership has claimed that 56 percent of confirmed votes were available to re-elect Musharraf as president.

According to the constitution, a simple majority from the parliament and all four provincial assemblies is required to elect a president.

The members of the lower and upper houses of the federal parliament, also known as National Assembly and Senate respectively, have one vote each in the presidential election.

In the provincial assemblies the votes are on the principle of “equal representation”, irrespective of the total strength of the provincial houses.

“We have more than 56 percent votes for Musharraf in the national and provincial parliaments,” PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain told reporters in Islamabad Saturday after three hours of consultations with the president.

Besides, several MPAs of the provincial assemblies will vote in favour of Musharraf, Hussain claimed.