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Musharraf Opponents Resign From Parliament, File Last-Minute Challenge


Pakistani lawmakers have resigned and opposition lawyers filed a last-minute petition against General Musharraf's re-election bid as president. General Musharraf's military successor has also been announced, suggesting he will keep his promise to give up his military leadership. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.

A coalition of Islamist political parties resigned Tuesday from Pakistan's national parliament in protest at General Musharraf's bid for re-election as president while in uniform.

More than 80 lawmakers tendered their resignations to the National Assembly, which along with the Senate and four provincial legislatures elects the president.

Members of at least one provincial assembly have said they also would resign before the October 6th election.

The lawmakers' resignations are symbolic as General Musharraf can still win re-election.

"In fact, one of the reasons why they are resigning just four days before his re-election is the fact that they realize that we have the required voters, we have the required number, and there should be no problem at all in having him re-elected," said the government's deputy information minister, Tariq Azim.

However, the resignations could further erode the legitimacy of an already controversial election.

Mr. Musharraf, who came to power in a 1999 military coup, is under pressure to restore civilian rule.

Opposition parties say his bid to stay in office while he leads the military is unconstitutional and should wait until after parliamentary elections expected before the end of January.

Lawyers on Tuesday filed a last-minute petition with the Supreme Court seeking to ban the Musharraf candidacy and a postponement of the election. It is not clear when the Supreme Court will rule on the petition but it is not likely to derail the general's re-election bid.

The Supreme Court last week dismissed similar petitions and Pakistan's election commission accepted the nomination of General Musharraf.

Also Tuesday, the former head of Pakistan's main spy agency, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, was appointed as the next chief of the Army.

The appointment suggests that General Musharraf might keep his promise to give up his military leadership after being elected president.

A Western military official in Islamabad has called Kiani a competent and strong commander who could help the military to bring Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal areas under control.

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