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Pakistan Court Dismisses Challenges to Musharraf Re-election

Pakistan's Supreme Court has dismissed the main legal challenges to General Pervez Musharraf's presidential re-election on October 6. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad the court struck down the challenges after one of the petitioners argued that judges appointed by President Musharraf did not have the authority to decide legal challenges against him.

Pakistani Attorney General Malik Qayyum told television interviewers Monday the decision was based on a legal technicality.

He says the petitioners' lawyers explained that they did not have instructions from their clients on how to proceed with the case and so the cases were dismissed.

One of the main petitioners in the case, Wajihuddin Ahmed, says this is not true.

"My lawyer informed them that he did not recognize them as the Supreme Court. There is no Supreme Court now and therefore our case cannot be proceeded with. It is wrong."

General Musharraf replaced the Supreme Court judges with a new panel of justices after he announced emergency law earlier this month.

Pakistani journalists who were in the courtroom reported that when Ahmed's lawyer told the judges that his client did not recognize their authority, they threatened him with contempt of court.

The journalists said the lawyer was then given a choice of proceeding with the case and facing contempt charges or informing the court that he could not proceed because he did not have proper instructions from his client.

The other claimants faced similar procedural choices and dropped their challenges.

Journalists said the judges forbid them from reporting that the claimants argued that they did not recognize the court's authority.

Wajihuddin Ahmed is a former Supreme Court judge who resigned after General Musharraf seized power in 1999. He said because the new judges have sworn an oath to uphold General Musharraf's provisional constitutional ordinance, or PCO, he was not surprised at the outcome.

"With the kind of judges we have there, the PCO judges, whom the legal fraternity does not recognize, whom the civil society does not recognize - this result was expected. It couldn't be otherwise," he said.

When he declared emergency rule earlier this month, President Musharraf had complained the former Supreme Court had been taking too long to rule on the challenges to his re-election, undermining the government. Many Pakistanis believe General Musharraf declared emergency rule and suspended the constitution because he thought the justices would rule against him.

Monday's decision appears to end the main legal challenges to his re-election, although at least one more is to be decided later this week. The president has said that after the high court rules on the challenges, clearing the way for the election commission to validate the vote, he will step down as army chief and take the presidential oath.