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Pakistan's Presidential Election, Power-Sharing Deal Set to Proceed

  • Daniel Schearf

Pakistan's Supreme Court has rejected requests to postpone Saturday's presidential election, but says the results will be kept secret until the court decides whether President Pervez Musharraf can legally run for re-election. Daniel Schearf reports for VOA from Islamabad.

The Supreme Court's decision Friday means Pakistan's presidential election can go ahead as planned despite pending legal challenges.

Opposition parties had argued the election should be postponed until after the Supreme Court rules on whether or not the incumbent, General Pervez Musharraf, can be re-elected while still head of the army. They also argued the election should not be held until after a new parliament is elected in January.

In a unanimous decision Friday, the high court dismissed petitions for a delay, and said the vote can go forward as scheduled. But it said the result will be kept secret pending a ruling on Mr. Musharraf's eligibility.

The vote is limited to members of national and provincial parliaments, and the public at large will not take part. The current assemblies are dominated by General Musharraf's supporters, virtually guaranteeing his re-election.

Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum welcomed the decision Friday.

"What is important is one, the polling will be held on date; two - and which is the most important thing - these assemblies, these assemblies will vote for the president. And, that was the whole battle," he said.

Friday's ruling means the Supreme Court can still disqualify Mr. Musharraf after the election, even if he wins as expected.

The court said the winner of the vote will not take office until after the judges rule on the eligibility issue. The Supreme Court is to resume hearings on October 17.

Separately, Mr. Musharraf's government on Friday gave final approval to a power-sharing deal with the opposition party leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Latif Khosa, a lawyer for Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, also welcomed Friday's court ruling.

Khosa says it is a winning situation for both parties. But ultimately, he says, he believes the constitution and the law will win, and people in uniform will go back to their barracks.

Ms. Bhutto, who has been in self-imposed exile for eight years, wants Mr. Musharraf to give up his military post if he wins, and he has agreed. Their agreement would allow her to return and seek re-election as prime minister.

In return, Ms. Bhutto's party, the largest in the country, would lend its support to General Musharraf, assuming he wins another five-year term.

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