Pakistan's Supreme Court yesterday dismissed the main challenges to President Pervez Musharraf's re-election last month.
Once the court clears Musharraf's October 6 victory, he has vowed to quit as army chief and become a civilian president, although he remains under fire from the opposition and Western allies for declaring emergency rule in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
A bench of 10 judges struck down the five main challenges to Musharraf's right to contest the election while still army chief. The sixth and final petition will be heard on Thursday.
"The notification of the president's election cannot be issued because a petition is still pending. Hopefully, it will be done after that," Attorney-General Malik Qayyum said.
During yesterday's proceedings, judges warned lawyers they faced contempt charges and cancellation of their licenses if they persisted in challenging the legality of Musharraf's new bench.
"You're taking it lightly, but you don't know that your license can be cancelled and strict action can be taken against you," Justice Nawaz Abbasi told a lawyer acting for Wajihuddin Ahmed, a former chief justice, who had run against Musharraf.
On Sunday Musharraf said he was asking the Election Commission to call a parliamentary election on January 8.
"Inshallah (God willing), the general elections in the country would be held on January 8," the official Associated Press of Pakistan news agency quoted Musharraf as saying.
But he gave no date for lifting the state of emergency, despite hearing from US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte on Saturday that the election's credibility would suffer unless the emergency announced on November 3 was rolled back.
Negroponte, who left Pakistan on Sunday, was careful not to undermine General Musharraf, a crucial US ally in the fight against Al-Qaida and the Taliban. But he stuck to Washington's stated position that thousands of people detained in the last two weeks should be released and curbs on the media should be lifted.
US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson met Bhutto yesterday.
"I am meeting the former prime minister and other political leaders to confirm American interest in free, fair and transparent elections and to assure her and all others that we will do everything possible to ensure that the electoral process takes place," she told journalists at Bhutto's Karachi residence.
Source: China Daily/Agencies