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SC puts Mush future on ice
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The Supreme Court has ruled that the presidential election can be held on schedule on Saturday but has kept open all issues, including the eligibility of President Pervez Musharraf to contest the election as army chief, subject to its final verdict.

A 10-judge bench of the court on Friday declined to stop the election process and stay the polling. It, however, ordered that the notification of the election results would not be issued till its final verdict. It means Musharraf will not take the oath of office till the court rules he is qualified to be a candidate in uniform.

The court adjourned hearing of petitions against Musharraf's candidature till October 17. The Chief Justice has the authority to assign the case to the full court after Eid- ul- Fitr when almost all 17 judges would be available.

The court verdict came as a disappointment for counsel of petitioners Justice Wajeehuddin Ahmed and Makhdoom Amin Fahim of the PPP. But both sides accepted it, saying the court had kept full control of the case. It would decide whether an army chief can contest the election and the validity of the election by outgoing assemblies whose mandate will expire on November 15.

Both sides, however, interpreted the verdict differently. Counsel claimed that the court had allowed polling only and the Election Commission should neither do the counting nor announce the results. But Attorney-General Qayyum Malik who expressed satisfaction over the verdict said the court had acknowledged that General Musharraf was eligible to contest and get elected from present assemblies. He said the commission could announce the results but would not notify these. Also, the President would not take the oath until the court came out with the final judgement.

Earlier, he told the court that a stay order would create problems, besides causing international embarrassment.

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