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Musharraf set to win most votes in Pakistan election but court to determine his fate

Musharraf set to win most votes in Pakistan election but court to determine his fate

When Pakistani lawmakers vote Saturday to elect a president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf's confidence that he will get the most ballots does not guarantee him a new five-year term.
The Supreme Court ruled Friday the official result could be declared only after it had decided on whether the military ruler was eligible to run in the first place.
That has jeopardized Musharraf's bid to prolong his eight-year rule and renew his struggling campaign against Islamic extremism _ likely in eventual alliance with pro-U.S. ex-premier Benazir Bhutto.
Coming after a turbulent six months that has seen the military strongman's popularity plummet, the court ruling will lead to a further period of political uncertainty in Pakistan and hobble Musharraf as parties jockey for position ahead of parliamentary elections set to follow by January.
Saturday's election, in which federal and provincial lawmakers will vote for a president, is already shrouded in controversy and acrimony.
Nearly 200 opposition members out of the 1,170 lawmakers qualified to vote resigned their seats in recent days to protest Musharraf's contesting the election while still army chief, and from the assemblies elected in flawed polls in 2002 that have already authorized his current five-year term.
Rather than seek a fresh mandate from the next parliament, Musharraf is banking on the outgoing assemblies where he enjoys a majority.
But the opposition is divided and its boycott, intended to undermine the vote's legitimacy, could now have backfired, robbing them of a chance of fielding their own common candidate who might have won if Musharraf was eventually ruled ineligible.
The party of ex-premier Bhutto, who is eying a power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf, has recoiled from a threat to resign from Parliament after he signed an amnesty to quash corruption charges against her.
She has welcomed his pledge to quit the army and restore civilian rule once he has secured a fresh presidential mandate.
Late Friday, Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party was undecided on whether to field its own nominated candidate, party vice chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim.
As it stands, Musharraf's main rival is a retired judge who is expected to garner only token support.
Wajihuddin Ahmed, a former Supreme Court justice who refused to take the oath of office after Musharraf reshaped the constitution in 2002, will win the backing of some opposition lawmakers but admits he has no hope of winning Saturday's vote.
"The only chance we have of success arises if the electors act on the voices of their conscience. Otherwise right now, we don't have a chance," Ahmed, 68, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
"Unfortunately, the opposition is divided."
The Election Commission, accused of being pro-Musharraf after it changed election rules in his favor, declined to clarify whether there would be a fresh election or if the second-placed candidate would become president, if the winner of Saturday's ballot was disqualified.
"This is a very sensitive matter. No comment," commission secretary Kanwar Dilshad said Friday.
Ikram Sehgal, a political analyst and newspaper columnist, said it was possible the commission would bypass the Supreme Court ruling entirely, because the Constitution states the validity of a presidential election "cannot be called in question by or before any court or other authority."
Musharraf's regime has already demonstrated a willingness to override rulings, even from the nation's highest court.
Last month, the prime minister he ousted in his 1999 coup was sent back into exile after he attempted to return, even though the Supreme Court ruled he had the right to stay in Pakistan.


Updated : 2021-10-17 16:42 GMT+08:00