Lawyers for Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf argued in the Supreme Court yesterday that he should be allowed to run in an October 6 election despite opposition from parties demanding an end to military rule.
The Supreme Court, ringed by tight security to stop opposition protests, has been hearing challenges to Musharraf's plans to seek another term in office.
The court is hearing three petitions challenging Musharraf's right to retain the posts of president and army chief, the legality of being elected in uniform, and whether he can get a mandate from outgoing assemblies.
The court, which on Monday dismissed three other petitions on technical grounds, is expected to deliver a ruling this week.
Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum told the court Musharraf had the right to contest the election and the challenges had no merit. "They want to disrupt the election, they don't want this election to go ahead," Qayyum said. Musharraf has said he would quit the army after wining another term.
Qayyum said if not re-elected, Musharraf would remain army chief until a new president nominated a commander. Musharraf is both president and army chief under a law that expires at the end of the year. His term as president expires on November 15.
If the court blocks Musharraf, analysts say he might impose emergency rule. Or, he could dissolve parliament and try to get re-elected by new assemblies after general elections due by mid-January, though his coalition is likely to suffer losses.
An opposition alliance led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party has said it would resign from assemblies should Musharraf's nomination accepted. However, it said its upper house Senators would vote for Wajihuddin Ahmed, a former Supreme Court judge who resigned in 2000 after refusing to swear allegiance to Musharraf.
An opposition walk-out would not stop the vote - Musharraf only needs a majority of votes cast.
The resignation threat lacks real bite unless the Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto joins in.
Bhutto, who plans to return from self-imposed exile on October 18, has been negotiating a power-sharing pact with Musharraf but has been insisting he quit the army before running for re-relection.
Source: China Daily/agencies