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Nine SC judges to hear poll pleas

October 03, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Oct 2: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry formed a nine-member bench on Tuesday to hear petitions challenging the acceptance of President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s candidature for the presidential election by the Election Commission.

The bench will be headed by Justice Javed Iqbal and comprise Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Sardar Raza Khan, Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, Justice Nasirul Mulk, Justice Raja Fayyaz, Justice Syed Jamshed Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani.

Two presidential candidates filed petitions on Tuesday, requesting the court to set aside the Chief Election Commissioner’s decision to accept Gen Musharraf’s nomination papers.

Lawyers’ candidate Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed and PPP’s Makhdoom Amin Fahim have also requested the court to stop the electoral process and the presidential election scheduled for Oct 6.

Justice Wajihuddin in his petition, prepared by advocates Munir A. Malik, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood and Ali Mohammad Kurd, said Gen Musharraf was seeking election for another term from assemblies whose term would expire on Nov 15 and being the outgoing assemblies had outlived their mandate.

He said Gen Musharraf was not qualified to be elected as president under Article 41(3) read with Article 62 of the Constitution. He said even if the holding of two offices was a ‘good law’, it did not allow a person in uniform to contest elections.

The petitioner said it would be against the letter and spirit of the Constitution if the same assemblies elected a person as president for whom they had previously given a vote of confidence. The same electorate, he said, could not elect a person as president twice.

Since the terms of the assemblies and the president were expiring at the same time, he said, sitting members of the assemblies did not constitute a valid electoral college.

According to the petitioner, Gen Musharraf had already served two consecutive terms as president and was thus disqualified under Article 44 (2) of the Constitution to seek re-election.

Justice Wajihuddin also said that the amendment to the Presidential Election Rules, 1988, made by the Chief Election Commissioner on Sept 10 was mala fide and violated the Constitution. Gen Musharraf had himself given approval to the amendment which showed it was a self-serving act. The amendment should be ignored and Gen Musharraf’s nomination papers should be rejected under the un-amended rules and Article 63 of the Constitution, the petitioner said.

He alleged that Pervez Musharraf had ridiculed the judiciary and judgments of the court, particularly in the kite-flying case, which also disqualified him to run for presidency.

He said the new electoral college to be inducted after general elections should elect the president.

Mr Fahim in his petition, drawn up by Senators Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, Farooq Naek, Sardar Khurram Latif Khosa, Mohammad Ahsan Bhoon and Raja Shafqat Abbasi, said the acceptance of nomination papers of Gen Musharraf was an issue of public importance because it affected 160 million people of the country.

He prayed the court to revere the decision of the CEC rejecting objections against Gen Musharraf’s candidature. He said the order of the CEC was illegal, contrary to provisions of the Constitution, against principles of democracy and an affront to sovereign rights of the people of Pakistan.

He said the CEC’s argument that Article 63 of the Constitution was not applicable to the president’s election was untenable. He said the amendment to the rules for presidential election had been framed by the beneficiary, Gen Musharraf, himself.

The petitioner said allowing the army chief to contest the presidential election would put other candidates at a disadvantage and in the context of the incumbent’s past conduct, winning over voters and getting elected would be a ‘blind man’s guess’. Neither would there be a level-playing field nor would fair, free and transparent election be conceivable, he said.