Pakistan's presidential elections will be held on October 6 and, if, all goes as planned, General Pervez Musharraf will seek re-election in uniform. However, opposition political parties have warned that they will either boycott the polls or resign from parliament in protest against the move.
Following an amendment to its rules that would allow Gen Musharraf to run again for the presidency, the Election Commission on Thursday took the next step and announced October 6 as the date for the country's much awaited presidential elections.
In the next couple of days, the focus will turn to the Supreme Court which will decide whether to allow the President to continue with his dual office and till when, in effect ruling whether he would be able to go ahead with his plan to be re-elected as president while in uniform or not.
But the legitimacy of the Musharraf government will be affected, claim politicians, if the opposition parties stay away. Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People Party (PPP) said that resignation may be "the only option" if Musharraf goes ahead with the re-election.
Babar said on Thursday that the PPP would accept Musharraf’s candidature if he sought re-election after resigning as army chief, allowed twice-elected prime ministers to contest for office and did away with the victimization of political opponents.
It will be evident on September 27, the day when nominations are to be filed, in what form the Pakistan president will be standing for elections. Already there are suggestions that "last ditch attempts" are being made to woo the PPP and come to some power-sharing agreement.
A joint session of the Senate and National Assembly will be held in the Parliament House Islamabad on that date, announced the Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (retd) Qazi Muhammad.
On Thursday, Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon, who is on a visit to Islamabad, reminded Musharraf of his promise to resign as COAS and also to hold elections. McKinnon said that the next four months "would be crucial" for Pakistan.
Musharraf's supporters – the ruling PML-Q is happy with the promise that the General will resign if re-elected president. Party Secretary-General Mushahid Husain said, "It is a solemn promise and we will ensure that it is kept." The PML-Q and its coalition allies enjoy the majority to allow Musharraf to be re-elected.
Musharraf insists that he has to stay on for continuity of his policies. His supporters say that he will be weakened if he resigns his military position.