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Pakistan Court Hears Challenge to Musharraf Re-Election Bid


Pakistan's Supreme Court has begun hearing challenges to President Pervez Musharraf bid for re-election. Opposition groups say Mr. Musharraf - who assumed power in a 1999 bloodless military coup - cannot legally be president while continuing as head of the Army. Daniel Schearf reports from VOA's Islamabad Bureau.

Pakistan's Supreme Court opened proceedings to hear petitions by political groups opposed to Mr. Musharraf seeking re-election next month.

At issue is whether Mr. Musharraf can run for president and keep his position as chief of the military. The president's supporters have indicated he will quit as Army chief if elected to another five-year term.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed is the leader of the MMA, a coalition of religious and political parties, petitioning the court.

Ahmed says they will see what the Supreme Court does with those who wrangle with the Constitution for their own political ends.

The embattled president has clashed twice with the Supreme Court this year, causing him to lose a great deal of public support.

He tried and failed to fire the chief justice. Last week, he defied a Supreme Court ruling by forcibly blocking the return of exiled opposition party leader, and former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

Mr. Sharif's party has filed petitions in the Supreme Court against Mr. Musharraf for contempt of court.

Opposition parties are threatening mass demonstrations if Mr. Musharraf is allowed to run again. His current terms ends November 15.

His election nomination papers are due by October 15.

Another exiled former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, is accusing the Musharraf camp of pushing the country to the brink of a major crisis. She and other opposition leaders want the president to restore democracy.

Ms. Bhutto is currently discussing a possible power-sharing deal with Mr. Musharraf in order to boost his political position. ut no agreement to bring her back from exile has been reached.

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