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'Judges should decide Musharraf's fate'

Ex-Pak premier Nawaz Sharif calls for the ousted judiciary to rule on the legality of President's position.

world Updated: Feb 25, 2008 16:10 IST

Former premier Nawaz Sharif called on Monday for Pakistan's ousted judiciary to rule on the legality of President Pervez Musharraf's position before any parliamentary move to impeach him.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N formed a coalition with the Pakistan People's Party of slain ex-PM Benazir Bhutto last week, after their groupings trounced Musharraf's backers in parliamentary elections.

They are seeking further allies to get them the two-thirds majority they need to impeach the president, who has repeatedly dismissed calls by Sharif and other opposition leaders to quit.

But Sharif said that top judges sacked by Musharraf under a state of emergency in November should be restored first so that they can decide the legality of Musharraf's re-election as president in October last year.

"Before parliament impeaches him we want this issue resolved by the judiciary... it should not reach that stage," Sharif told reporters after meeting hardline Islamist politician Qazi Hussain Ahmed in Islamabad.

"On November 3 the judiciary was murdered, that's why we say he is an unconstitutional and illegal president," Sharif said.

He reiterated his call for Musharraf to step down before any action by the courts or the new government.

"Musharraf should quit as soon as possible. It would be better for him because the people have given their mandate," Sharif said.

Pakistan's political crisis was sparked in March last year when Musharraf suspended the country's chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, on charges of misconduct.

He then sacked Chaudhry and dozens of other judges outright on November 3, days before the Supreme Court was due to rule on his re-election by the national and provincial assemblies in October.

The opposition boycotted that vote, saying it was unconstitutional because Musharraf should have quit as army chief before seeking re-election and also because it should not have been carried out by the outgoing assemblies.