Pakistan Court Allows Musharraf's Re-Election

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a final challenge to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's re-election for another five-year term in office.

This comes as no surprise. Pakistan's high court is filled with judges hand-picked by Musharraf earlier this month. The ruling allows Musharraf to take an oath of office. He has also promised to resign as Pakistan's military chief and hold elections on Jan. 8.

Thursday's ruling by Pakistan's Supreme Court settles the question of whether Musharraf's re-election was valid, but there are still many uncertainties about what will unfold as the country heads towards elections.

The situation in Pakistan has been volatile for the past month. Musharraf imposed a state of emergency, gagged the independent media, purged the Supreme Court of independent judges, suspended the constitution and amended the constitution to work in his favor.

"When the constitution is suspended, obviously uncertainty has to reign supreme over the body politic of the country," said Aniz Zafer, a public relations consultant and political analyst in Islamabad.

Zafer said Musharraf is calling the shots and is not afraid to use his power to his advantage in the elections.

"Right now, the constitution and all the laws are now subject to the whim of one person. He is making changes as he wishes," he said.

For the past few weeks, Musharraf indicated he would take the oath of office as soon as the Supreme Court dismissed challenges against his re-election. That was supposed to happen Thursday, then Friday, and now his aides said it may be this weekend.

Musharraf has promised when he takes the oath that he will resign from the powerful position of army chief of staff.

Pakistanis appeared divided on whether that will happen. Some said he has no choice because of international and domestic pressures — and because that is what the army wants.

Like others, Zafer is not wholly confident Musharraf will resign because the stakes for him are very high.

"The kind of power he has enjoyed over the past eight years, removing the uniform means foregoing some of that power," Zafer said. "And, as far as I know that person, as far as people of Pakistan know that person, he loathes that idea of foregoing some power, sharing power with others."

It is also uncertain whether opposition parties will boycott the elections. Earlier this week, the Pakistan Peoples Party, led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, had a marathon meeting to discuss this issue. In the end, the PPP decided to delay their decision.

Officials with many of Pakistan's other political parties said they will not decide until the PPP does.

Khalid Mahmud, with the Institute of Regional Studies, said it is clear what the opposition parties will do.

"Although they raise many objections and say they're not satisfied with the arrangement made for holding free and fair elections, what they have done before, the opposition parties will eventually participate," Mahmud said.

At this point, it is not clear whether former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be in the country to participate.

Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999, and the former leader is now in exile in Saudi Arabia. Sharif was deported last month after trying to return to Pakistan after being out of the country for many years.

There was speculation that Musharraf went to Saudi Arabia earlier this week to try to form a political alliance with Sharif.

Sharif has said he will not talk to Musharraf, but a political analyst and commentator said that would be short-sighted of Sharif.

"Well, look. Nawaz Sharif will be a fool if he decides to just not talk. You know, he needs to be back in the fray," said analyst Nasim Zehra.

But others said that is exactly what Musharraf does not want, and that he will lot let Sharif back into Pakistan to participate in the elections. They speculated that Musharraf's visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was not to talk about an alliance with Sharif, but to ask the Saudis to keep the former leader there.

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