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Pak SC debates Musharraf offer

The hearing of the petitions which challenge Musharraf's right to hold duel offices continued before Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Sep 19, 2007 20:33 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

The hearing of the petitions which challenge General Pervez Musharraf's right to hold the offices of both president of Pakistan as well as chief of army staff continued before Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday. Whatever the decision, it will have profound impact on the political future of Pakistan.

Critics of the regime are confident that the verdict will go against General Musharraf. Said Liaquat Baloch, a Jamaat-e-Islami MP, "Musharraf has been caught in his own web. I am confident the court will rule in favour of the petitioners."

Hamid Khan, counsel of former cricketer and current politician Imran Khan, presented his arguments at Wednesday's hearing. He read out the presidential oath in the court, noting that the oath restrained the president from taking part in political activities.

Khan also provided the details of Musharraf's professional life. The Pakistan military allows a service period of 35 years. By this rule, Musharraf should have retired in 1999. He quoted another rule which said the tenure of Pakistan's army chief should be three years.

By that yardstick, Musharraf should have retired on October 16, 2001. He noted that Musharraf turned 60 on August 10, 2003, and should definitely have retired from the army then.

A nine-member larger bench headed by Rana Bhagwandas is hearing identical constitutional petitions challenging president's holding dual offices.

Outside the court house, debate continued over the condition laid down by the president that he would resign his army position if he was re-elected. Mushahid Hussain, Secretary General of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Qaumi) party, said that if the president had given the undertaking to resign from his military post, "we should take him on his word and accept it." Husain said that the PML-Q would be there to ensure that the undertaking is fulfiled.

On Tuesday, the president through his counsel Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada submitted a written statement to the court that he would doff military uniform after his re-election.

"If elected for the second term as president, General Pervez Musharraf will relinquish the office of the Chief of the Army Staff before his taking oath as president," said a statement filed by Pirzada on behalf of the president in the larger bench of the Supreme Court.

Barrister Aitazaz Ahsan said that if the undertaking has been filed in court, "it had legal implications".

However, the Jamaat-e-Islami party and many opposition parties rejected the notion of the president running for re-election in uniform.

Hafiz Husain Ahmad, a right wing politician, commented that in the past General Musharraf had made similar promises but had not kept them. He said "We are sure this time we will again be duped."