Pakistan's Musharraf nominated for vote

Pakistan military leader President Pervez Musharraf filed nomination papers on Thursday to run for re-election on October 6, while the Supreme Court prepared to rule on the army chief’s eligibility to stand.

A bench of nine judges is due to deliver a ruling on Friday that could have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan’s transition to greater democracy, eight years after General Musharraf took power in a coup.

Pakistan faces months of uncertainty as Musharraf tries to keep control of a nuclear-armed country whose support for the United States is seen as crucial to the success of Western efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and battle al-Qaeda.

If the court blocks Musharraf’s re-election, analysts say he might impose emergency rule or dissolve Parliament and seek a mandate as a civilian from assemblies after a general election.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and ruling party leaders were upbeat as they delivered Musharraf’s papers to the Election Commission, across an avenue from the Supreme Court.

“President Pervez Musharraf is the candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League [PML] and its allies, and we are fully confident that he will succeed,” Aziz told reporters.

Security was tight in Islamabad, with riot police standing by and checkpoints on roads into the capital.

Police guarded the Supreme Court and its compound.

The court is hearing petitions challenging Musharraf’s right to hold the posts of president and army chief, the legality of being elected in uniform, and whether he can get a mandate from outgoing assemblies before general elections due by mid-January.

“This will not be a proper and honest transition to democracy,” Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent opposition lawyer, told the court before it adjourned for the day.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered authorities to release opposition activists detained in a weekend crackdown the government said was necessary to maintain order.

Musharraf’s attempt to sack Chaudhry in March sparked a wave of protests, and his popularity has since slumped.—Reuters

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