Friday, September 28, 2007

Musharraf can contest presidential election: Pak SC

Courtesy_
Dinamalar ePaper

Musharraf can seek presidency and be army chief: Pakistan SC

Pakistan's Supreme Court Friday allowed President Pervez Musharraf to contest presidential elections for the second term while also being the army chief, saying the reasons would be recorded later.

From Correspondents in Islamabad, Pakistan, 28 Sep 2007

Pakistan's Supreme Court Friday allowed President Pervez Musharraf to contest presidential elections for the second term while also being the army chief, saying the reasons would be recorded later.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PNL-Q) celebrated the decision while opposition parties and lawyers expressed their bitter disappointment. Hundreds of them blocked the Constitution Avenue after the court decision.

A nine-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Rana Bhagwandas, by a majority decision dismissed all petitions filed against Musharraf's candidature for presidency and challenging his simultaneously holding two offices of the president and the army chief.

Six members of the bench gave a verdict in favour of dismissing the petitions while three judges - Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and Justice Shakirullah Jan - wrote a non-favouring note.

The decision came at 3.35 p.m., delayed by 80 minutes as it was scheduled to be announced at 2.15 p.m.

The court started hearing Sep 17 six petitions filed against Musharraf for holding the two offices of the president and the army chief and his candidature for the presidential polls.

'This is the most unfortunate decision,' said advocate Akram Sheikh, who pleaded the case against Musharraf's candidature, soon after the Supreme Court decision.

The petitions were filed by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Tehrik-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, president of Pakistan Communist Party Jamil Malik and others.

Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that the lawyers and opposition should accept this decision. 'If lawyers want to do politics, they should join some political parties and let the system work,' he told reporters.

'Once again, the law of necessity has been invoked and dictatorship has been protected,' Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party leader Ahsan Iqbal said to reporters.

Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi said the Supreme Court has given a great news to the nation. 'Now we have the able leadership of Pervez Musharraf for another five years.'

The president's attorney, Sharifuddin Pirzada during the hearing Sep 18 told the court that Musharraf after his re-election would doff his uniform.

Submitting a written statement in the court Sep 19, Pirzada said that if the president was re-elected, then he would give up the army post and doff the uniform prior to his swearing-in.

During then hearing, when the court asked what would happen if Musharraf lost the election, the attorney promptly said he would remain the army chief.

Imran Khan's lawyer Hamid Khan on Sep 20 presented in the court the particulars relating to the Musharraf's professional responsibilities.

Justice Javed Iqbal on Sep 20 in a passing remark said that the 17th Constitutional Amendment provided crutches to Musharraf, not by the Supreme Court.

On Thursday, Musharraf and 42 other candidates filed their nomination papers for the presidential polls due for Oct 6. The two other prominent candidates are Makhdoom Amin Fahim of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and former Supreme Court judge Wajihuddin Ahmed, who has support from the lawyers' community and opposition parties.

The Election Commission (EC) is scheduled to scrutinise the nomination papers of the candidates Saturday. The PPP and lawyers have already filed objections to Musharraf's candidacy. The PPP has asked the EC to seek Musharraf's bachelor's degree.

'I believe Musharraf is not a graduate,' PPP leader Babar Awan told reporters Friday outside the Supreme Court. In Pakistan, usually cadets join the army after grade 10 or 12 and are not graduates. However, in the mid 90s the Army Staff College and other military institutions were allowed to run graduation and master-level courses.

The PPP leader believes that Musharraf never attended any army educational institutional after 1994, when these institutions were allowed to run the graduate courses.

The lawyers' community has announced that they would gather in large numbers outside the Election Commission's head office in Islamabad Saturday when the nomination papers would be scrutinised.

The nine-member larger bench hearing the identical constitutional petitions comprised of Justice Rana Bhagwan Das, Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokar, Justice Falak Sher, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan and Justice M. Javed Buttar.

Read more at: http://www.indiaenews.com/pakistan/20070928/72634.htm


© Copyright 2006 India eNews (www.indiaenews.com). All Rights Reserved.


Anger in Pakistan legal community

Nirupama Subramanian


Bar association to continue efforts to knock out Musharraf from the election

— Photo: AFP

DISSENTING NOTE: Lawyers raise anti-Musharraf slogans outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Friday after it ruled that Pervez Musharraf can run for President next month while keeping his post as army chief.

ISLAMABAD: The verdict was not unexpected. But the court’s decision to throw out petitions challenging the eligibility of President Pervez Musharraf to contest the October 6 presidential election caused anger and disappointment in the legal community whose agitation for the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary has turned over the months into a struggle against military rule.

Important issue

“I am very, very disappointed that after all the hearings for last two weeks, the court dismissed the petitions on a preliminary objection. It was such an important issue,” said Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).

Lawyers rushed out of the courtroom after the verdict raising slogans against Gen. Musharraf’s advocates, and gathering on the steps of the Supreme Court, declared a “black day” on Saturday.

“Lawyers in every part of the country will be on strike tomorrow. No more legal battles. Henceforth the battle is on the streets,” said Ali Ahmed Kurd, a prominent leader of the lawyers’ community, calling for a protest demonstration from the Supreme Court to the Election Commission, where nomination papers will be scrutinised.

“We are not coming back to this building. We don’t care about this building,” said an emotionally-charged Mr. Kurd.

But the Supreme Court Bar Association said it would also continue legal efforts to knock out Gen. Musharraf from the election.

Hamid Khan, advocate for JI leader Qazi Hussain and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, said the judges had “abdicated” their jurisdiction by dismissing the petitions on technical grounds.

But Mr. Khan pointed out that the verdict did not say anything about Gen. Musharraf’s eligibility to contest the elections.

“We can still challenge that. We will contest his eligibility before the Election Commission, and that’s one reason why we have put up such a credible candidate,” Mr. Khan said referring to Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed, who filed his nomination on Thursday.

List of objections

Mr. Ahmed has already submitted a list of objections to Gen. Musharraf’s nomination, mainly dealing with the disqualifications listed under Article 63. As the Election Commission has changed the rules of the election so that a nomination cannot be challenged by the provisions of this article to favour Gen. Musharraf — Friday’s verdict said nothing about this — the lawyers said they would knock on the doors of the Supreme Court again if turned away by the Chief Election Commissioner.

Akram Sheikh, counsel for Jamat-i-Islami, said he was under instructions from his client to file a review petition on Monday.

“Unfortunately this is not a judgment that will either enhance the prestige of the Supreme Court or of the country. I see all pervasive state intimidation.”

Hamid Khan also questioned the independence of the judiciary, and said the September 10 deportation of the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, in violation of the court’s orders, was a “turning point” in this respect.

“The message from that was clear, that they will do anything to intimidate the judiciary,” Mr. Khan said.

The lawyer said all judges are “not independent yet,” the reason why the petitioners wanted a full court to decide the cases, a plea that was rejected. “We fell into the wrong hands,” Mr. Khan said.

Denying that the government had exerted any pressure, Attorney-General Malik Qayyum asked if this was the case, why had the government not influenced the bench in the Chief Justice’s case in July or in Nawaz Sharif’s case last month.

He said President Musharraf, who the lawyers described as a “military dictator” was prepared to accept all judgments by the Supreme Court, but the lawyers, who said they were for the rule of law, were not prepared to accept this particular verdict as it went against them.

Gen. Musharraf’s spokesman Maj. Gen. (retd) Rashid Qureshi told the official news agency APP that “the President respects and honours the Supreme Court verdict.” “Justice triumphs,” he said, when asked for comments about the verdict.

© Copyright 2000 - 2007 The Hindu

Courtesy_
THE HINDU

http://www.thehindu.com/2007/09/29/stories/2007092962472000.htm

General President

While the Pakistan SC has allowed Musharraf to contest for re-election as the President even while holding charge as the COAS, he is expected to honour his commitment to resign as the COAS after getting re-elected...
B. Raman


In a six to three judgement on September 28, 2007, a nine-member bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court headed by Justice Bhagwan Das dismissed the petitions filed by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) and other opponents of Gen.Pervez Musharraf questioning the legality of his contesting for re-election as the President even while holding charge as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).

Under the electoral laws of Pakistan, a government servant cannot contest elections during his service and for a period of two years after leaving government service. In 2003, Musharraf had got a special dispensation enacted in his favour by the present National Assembly exempting him from this provision. It is under this dispensation, he is now seeking re-election while continuing to hold office as the COAS.

During the hearing on the writ petitions, he had conveyed a message to the court that if re-elected he would take the new oath of office as the President after resigning as the COAS. government spokespersons had also indicated that if not re-elected, he would continue as the COAS under the new President. Thus, he made it clear that he was determined to continue in office either as the President or as the COAS, whatever be the decision of the court on the petitions.

The US and other Western countries are keen that whatever be the nature of the next government, Musharraf should continue to be associated with it so that he could continue to direct the fight against Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations. Though the US is dissatisfied with the way the fight is being waged under Musharraf's leadership, it is concerned that any other government with which he is not associated in any capacity may be even less effective. They would, therefore, have reasons to be happy with the breather given by the judiciary to Musharraf.

However, it needs to be underlined that the Supreme Court has not yet pronounced itself on the merits of the law which had granted a special dispensation to Musharraf. What the ruling of September 28 means is that so long as that law continues to be in the statute book, it would be quite in order for Musharraf to seek re-election even while continuing as the COAS. The merits of the law itself and its constitutionality will be decided later. Whatever be the final decision on the constitutionality of the law granting the special dispensation to Musharraf, it would not affect Musharraf continuing as the President if he is re-elected.

While thus granting a breather to Musharraf, the court has at the same time by a separate order restrained Musharraf from creating difficulties for his opponents during the Presidential election by arresting them. It has ordered the release of those arrested. His opponents are determined to disrupt a smooth holding of the Presidential election by resigning from the National Assembly and through demonstrations etc. But, their efforts may not come in the way of his re-election.

Musharraf is expected to honour his commitment to the court by resigning as the COAS after getting re-elected. Since all the present Lts.-General and Generals have been closely associated with him and owe their rise in their career to him, his nominating some other officer--whoever it may be--as the COAS in his place is unlikely to weaken him in the short term, but in the medium and long-terms it could lead to a conflict between him and the new COAS, if Musharraf keeps interfering in promotions and postings.

Will the new COAS be as responsive to American expectations and interests as Musharraf was? If not, can there be a conflict on this issue? The answers to this would depend on how the ground situation in the Pashtun belt evolves.If the situation continues to be as serious as it is today and if the Army continues to suffer severe reverses, there could be a conflict between Musharraf as the President and the COAS over the wisdom of continuing the present policy.


B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

Courtesy_
Outlook

Related Stories:

Present assemblies can’t re-elect Musharraf: Wajih

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