Islamabad: The Pakistani Supreme Court, stacked with judges loyal to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf cleared the way for him to rule as a civilian president, deciding on Thursday against a final challenge blocking ratification of his election last month.
The decision, which was widely expected after Musharraf purged the court of independent-minded judges, means that Pakistan’s election commission can put a stamp of approval on the October vote that won Musharraf a five-year-term.
The general has said that once he got a court decision in his favour, he would quickly step down as army chief and take the oath as president. Pakistani attorney general Malik Mohammed Qayyum has said such a move could come as early as Saturday.
The court decision “means there is no challenge to his eligibility (to serve as president) and to the election,” Qayyum told reporters. He said the court would issue a directive to election authorities on Friday ordering them to ratify the result. After that, he said, “the president will be free to take the oath” as a civilian president.
Immediate reaction from Musharraf’s opposition was muted. A decision by the Pakistan People’s Party and other opposition groups on whether to participate in the 8 January vote is seen as a critical test for whether Musharraf can weather the political storm around him. Analysts say if they boycott the vote, as they have threatened, it will be difficult for him to claim any legitimacy. It is still not clear whether Musharraf will lift the state of emergency, despite international pressure, including from the US, his key backer.
Late Wednesday, Musharraf decreed new amendments to the constitution using powers he said he has under the emergency. One of the amendments states that his decisions cannot be challenged by any court and will be considered “always to have been validly made.”
Also on Wednesday, the government freed more jailed political activists. Those freed included Imran Khan, former cricket star who has become a firebrand in the opposition to Musharraf’s rule. AP