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Mush sweeps poll; it is up to court now
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Pakistan’s military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Friday won, virtually uncontested, the controversial presidential election that was boycotted by all opposition parties.

The election was held under an embargo imposed by the Supreme Court on official announcement of the result till its final order on petitions challenging his eligibility to contest in uniform.

Musharraf claimed absolute majority by securing 386 of the 702 (55 per cent) votes of the electoral college comprising members of the Senate, National Assemblies and all four provincial assemblies. The electoral college reflects equality of weightage given to each federating unit with 65 electoral votes for each.

Polling was held in Islamabad and four provincial capitals, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. It went on smoothly. Lawyers’ candidate retired Justice Wajehuddin stayed in the field and polled two electoral votes. He, however, says he contested the election for technical reasons in order to qualify to challenge as an aggrieved party Musharraf’s eligibility to contest. The petition is being heard by the Supreme Court which declined on Friday his plea to halt the polling. It, however, ordered that the notification of the result must wait final verdict on the petition.

The Opposition had boycotted the election describing it as unconstitutional and unethical saying the outgoing assemblies who have exhausted their own mandate cannot elect a President for another five years. Its stance was strengthened on Saturday when Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) joined the boycott making it only an exclusive affair of the ruling coalition that comprise PML, MQM and PPP-Sherpao.

Government made hectic efforts to ensure the presence of almost all its members besides inducing defection of three MMA members, one ANP and four of Jamhuri Watan Party (JWP) of slain Balochistan nationalist leader Akbar Bugti.

The Opposition had called for countrywide shut down and protest rallies which could evoke an indifferent public response. Lawyers in major cities, including Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, staged demonstrations raising slogans against Musharraf.

Opposition leaders and lawyers described the election a farce and said Musharraf had manipulated the Constitution five years ago to get elected from outgoing assemblies whose term expires on November 15 and in which he enjoys majority. Another amendment advanced the presidential election from that of the assemblies.

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PPP boycott a blow for Pervez
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) today shocked the government by an eleventh-hour decision to boycott the presidential election hours after President Musharraf promulgated an ordinance giving a clean chit to its leader Ms Benazir Bhutto by terminating all corruption cases against her and spouse Asif Zardari.

Government spokesmen termed the boycott as breach of the agreement reached between Benazir and Musharraf. But PPP Senator Safdar Abbasi said the party had only pledged not to resign from assemblies like the other opposition parties.“We have kept our word”, he said.

PPP candidate Makhdoom Amin Fahim said the party had made its stand clear that it would not vote for uniformed Musharraf. It also considers the election by outgoing assemblies as violation of all democratic, political and constitutional norms, he added.

Fahim said he had already moved a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the eligibility of General Musharraf to contest election as army chief.

The boycott decision was a triumph of the rebel group in PPP which felt immensely embarrassed by Ms Bhutto’s deal with a military ruler. It came after some intense but fractious meetings of parliamentary parties in Islamabad and capitals of all four provinces till late after midnight on Friday and early this morning.

Leading PPP parliamentarians and jurists, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and Senator Raza Rabbani led the group opposing the deal. Aitzaz said the National Reconciliation Ordinance is liable to be challenged in the Supreme Court. “It will be thrown within an hour, “ he said.

The opponents maintained that participation in electoral process would give legitimacy to Musharraf’s election. On Saturday morning the party evolved a consensus and informed Benazir in Dubai about the sentiments of the MPs. She then endorsed the decision to boycott.

Other opposition parties that have formed All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) resigned from the National Assembly and Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan assemblies. In NWFP it has planned to dissolve the Assembly which was thwarted by moving a no-confidence motion. The APDM members sans those belonging to JUI of Maulana Fazlur Rehman submitted their resignations on Friday. JUI boycotted the polling today.

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Process to restore civilian rule completed: Mush
Tribune News Service

Islamabad, October 6
President Gen Pervez Musharraf said here today that the presidential election marks the culmination of the process of restoring civilian rule in the country.

Musharraf thanked lawmakers for electing him and said that he was overwhelmed by his victory with a huge majority. He vowed to serve the country with a new spirit of promoting national conciliation, harmony and good governance.

"Today's election marks the successful culmination of the process of transition to a civilian rule," he said.

Musharraf has promised to doff the uniform before taking oath of a fresh five-year term as President on November 16. Official APP news agency said Saudi monarch Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and several other foreign leaders rang up President Musharraf to greet him.

Referring to the embargo imposed by the Supreme Court on the notification of the result, Musharraf hoped this issue would be resolved soon.

Addressing lawmakers of the ruling coalition at an ‘iftar’ dinner he hosted here on the eve of the polling, Musharraf told them to exercise their right of vote without any apprehension about its outcome. He said the court must decide the petitions challenging his eligibility within a week or so after Eid.

He said he would doff uniform and take oath as a civilian president if the court fulfils the pledge. "If it does not do that by November 15, I am there as President and army chief", he observed.

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