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Pak Presidential Election
Judge hints at stay
Heavens will not fall: Justice Ramday
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

A Judge on the 10-member Bench of the Supreme Court today hinted at granting a temporary stay in the presidential election due on October 6, but deferred decision till Friday.

The court heard arguments from counsel of petitioners retired Justice Waheeduddin Ahmed and Makhddom Amin Fahim and the government on the point of delaying election and its implications. Both Ahmed and Fahim have challenged the eligibility of Gen Musharraf to contest elections as army chief. The chief election commissioner had rejected the objections to Musharraf’s candidature on September 29.

The day’s proceedings began on a sore note when presiding judge Justice Javed Iqbal was joined by some other members on the Bench in expressing extreme anger against Justice Wajeehuddin Ahmed’s criticism of some judges on the Bench who had earlier dismissed similar petitions last Friday on technical grounds. Angry judges threatened to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Justice Ahmed and even wanted to halt hearing of the petitions.

The court adjourned the hearing for 15 minutes to further discuss these points. However, when they returned to the court room, presiding judge Javed Iqbal said the Bench would hear the case because of its vital importance to the country. He also skirted the question of calling Justice Ahmed on contempt charges.

Hamed Ali Khan representing Justice Ahmed and Latif Khosa counsel for Fahim argued that the election date be deferred till the court gives it ruling on their petitions. The judges, in particular Justice Khalil ur-Rehman Ramday, were concerned about a situation where President Musharraf is elected on October 6 but the court finds him ineligible to contest later on. Ramday presided over the full court, which delivered a historic judgement on July 20 reinstating sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

Ramday said the elections would in any case be held through present assemblies if these were postponed till before November 15 when their term expires.

Hamed Khan said the elections after two days would cause irreparable injury to his client confronting him with a fait accompli despite the fact Gen Musharraf was patently disqualified to contest. Latif Khosa said the nation was going through an ordeal and the court must not sanction an illegitimate status quo. Dr Farooq Hasan representing ‘civil society’ questioned the elections through outgoing assemblies saying this would create a permanent distortion in the process by electing the President a few weeks before the people give mandate to new assemblies.

The attorney general argued that the petitioners had already lost the elections and want to stall the process by seeking a delay. He pointed out that a delay would also allow the Chief Minister of NWFP, Akram Durrani, time to dissolve the assembly after defeating the current no confidence motion against him. This would create a new legal situation for the court, he added.

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Mush-Bhutto deal gets all-clear
Tribune News Service

Gen Pervez MusharrafIslamabad, October 4
President Gen Pervez Musharraf and former premier Benazir Bhutto have sorted out residual difficulties in clinching the deal that would allow Bhutto amnesty on corruption charges, both sides announced on Thursday.

The agreement would ward off Bhutto’s threat that her party would resign from assemblies like the rest of the opposition to divest presidential election due on October 6 of legitimacy and credibility. The law would end all pending cases against politicians and officials registered between 1988 and November, 1999.

The accord evoked a sharp reaction from the opposition, including exiled premier Nawaz Sharif, who rejected any deal to get pardon for corruption case. Former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz said nobody has a right to indemnify corruption charges. A senior leader and eminent eminent jurist of Bhutto’s PPP, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, doubted if the proposed law based on the agreement would stand test of judicial scrutiny.

An ordinance is expected anytime to formalise the agreement. Musharraf also seemed to have surmounted fierce opposition to the accord from ruling coalition, including the PML-Q, MQM and PPP-Sherpao, convincing them of the urgency of such a deal to ensure his election. The MQM later announced that it’s reservations have been removed and it would support the accord.

Bhutto addressed a news conference in London confirming the agreement but said the final announcement by her party would be made on Friday after the ordinance is promulgated and wa based on an agreed draft. Makhdoom Amin Fahim who was due to leave London on Thursday has postponed his departure till Friday.

She said the PPP would not resign from assemblies but would not vote for Musharraf because he was contesting election in uniform. She said Musharraf has addressed PPP concerns on uniform by pledging to take it off before taking oath on November 16. “This is a tangible step to move towards democracy,” she observed.

But she left open the question whether the PPP would abstain or stay in the contest through Amin Fahim. Bhutto seemed to be waiting for the Supreme Court judgment expected on Friday on pleas to postpone it.

Asked if by participating in the electoral process she would be legitimizing Musharraf’s election by outgoing assemblies, Bhutto said she would leave it to the court. She said the agreement with Musharrf was possible because both sides wanted a national reconciliation to end current confrontation in the country. She insisted it was not specific to her adding it would benefit other parties and politicians including exiled premier Nawaz Sharif.

She skirted a question whether the US played a role in making the agreement possible. When a questioner referred to General Musharraf’s statement on Wednesday that he would not deny such US pressure, Bhutto said she has said what she wanted to say. On her demands for removing ban on two time prime ministers to seek third term and repealing law that allows the president to dissolve the assemblies, she said an understanding has been worked out to address these issues after the election.

She said the proposed National Re-conciliation Ordinance would also provide for parliamentary panels to approve the arrest of any parliamentarian.

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