NYT : Court Upholds Musharraf Election

Monday, November 19, 2007

Court Upholds Musharraf Election

By CARLOTTA GALL | November 20, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 19 — The newly formed Supreme Court of Pakistan, which was appointed after emergency rule was imposed two weeks ago, today dismissed the main outstanding challenges to Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s election for another presidential term, almost certainly ensuring his confirmation as president later this week.

Ten judges heard the case today. Within three hours, they dismissed five of six challenges to General Musharraf’s candidacy.

“There were five petitions, they have all been dismissed,” said the attorney general, Malik Abdul Qayyum. “There is only one left, and that will be heard on Thursday,” he said after the proceedings, according to news reports.

The sixth petition, which is not a direct challenge to General Musharraf but a complaint to the Election Commission from a candidate who was eliminated from the presidential race, will be heard on Thursday. That is expected to be dismissed, too, paving the way for the court to confirm General Musharraf’s election to another five-year term.

General Musharraf won the Oct. 6 presidential election, but the Supreme Court had ordered that the results not be officially confirmed until the court heard outstanding challenges by other candidates. The election was boycotted by opposition parties.

The opposition candidates and a representative of the country’s lawyers’ movement opposed the general’s candidacy, arguing that he was not eligible to run for president while at the same time holding the post of army chief.

The powerful challenge that the previous Supreme Court represented to General Musharraf was the main reason he introduced — on Nov. 3, days before the court was due to rule — de facto martial law, suspending the Constitution, dismissing the Supreme Court and arresting the chief justice and other leading judges, a senior government aide has admitted.

After dismissing the chief justice and the previous Supreme Court, General Musharraf appointed a new court of 11 judges who took an oath under the temporary Provisional Constitutional Order, which is in force under the emergency rule.

Only four judges from the previous Supreme Court agreed to take the oath and work in the new court. The court is now seen as pro-government, and a verdict in General Musharraf’s favor was widely expected.

In protest at what they say is the unconstitutional dismissal of the former Supreme Court, lawyers and bar associations have refused to appear before the current Supreme Court and others courts around the country.

Many of the lawyers themselves have been detained, including the president of the Supreme Court bar association, Aitzaz Ahsan, who was representing one of the candidates challenging General Musharraf’s election.

The opposition presidential candidate, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who is the deputy leader of Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, the country’s main opposition party, withdrew a legal challenge he had put forward in protest at what he said was the illegality of the court.

Mr. Amin was not present at the court, but his advocate, Shafqat Abbassi, requested to withdraw the petition, which was granted.

General Musharraf has promised to resign from his post of Chief of Army Staff when he is confirmed as president for another term. His current term expired on Nov. 15, but under the emergency he has continued in both army and presidential roles.

On Sunday, General Musharraf said he was recommending to the Election Commission that parliamentary elections be held on Jan. 8.