Court dismisses pleas against Musharraf
Islamabad, November 19, 2007
Pakistan's Supreme Court, packed with government-friendly judges since President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule, dismissed on Monday the main challenges to his 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 setting back democracy in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Musharraf was due to visit Saudi Arabia this week, the Foreign Ministry said, after the News daily said it had "credible reports" he would meet exiled opposition leader Nawaz Sharif there, fuelling speculation the general might be seeking a deal.
But Sharif later said he would not meet Musharraf, who deposed him eight years ago and sent him into exile.
In Islamabad, a 10-judge bench rejected five main challenges to Musharraf's right to contest the October 6 election while still army chief. It rules on the sixth and final petition 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 told Reuters.
Musharraf's main aim in taking emergency powers was to purge the Supreme Court of men he feared would annul his re-election.
The Karachi stock market's main index rebounded more than 350 points following the court's action to end Monday 1.2 percent higher. It is still nearly 5 percent below pre-emergency levels, but 32 percent up since the start of the year.
During Monday's proceedings, judges warned lawyers they faced contempt charges and cancellation of their licences if they persisted in challenging the legality of Musharraf's new bench.
On Sunday, Musharraf said he was asking the Election Commission to call a a parliamentary election on Jan. 8. But he gave no date for lifting the emergency, despite hearing from US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte on Saturday that the election's credibility would suffer unless the emergency imposed 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 Qaeda and the Taliban. But he stuck to Washington's position that thousands of people detained in the last two weeks should be released and curbs on the media should be lifted. - Reuters