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Pakistan government rules out martial law

November 02, 2007 15:23 IST

Dismissing suggestions that it was under pressure, Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday said it will give a verdict on petitions challenging President Pervez Musharraf's re-election in uniform by November 6 even as a top government lawyer said there was no move to impose martial law in the country.

Though the 11-member bench had on Thursday indicated that it was unlikely to decide the matter before November 14 as one of the judges would be away to attend the marriage of his daughter, it said on Friday that it would sit even on weekend, if necessary, so that it can give a ruling by next week.

Musharraf's current tenure ends on November 15 and the delay by the court in deciding the validity of his candidature in the October 6 presidential poll had sparked rumours that martial law or emergency would be imposed.

Attorney General Malik Qayyum told the court that there was no move by the government to impose martial law.

Senior lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, the counsel for petitioner, unsuccessful presidential candidate Wajihuddin Ahmad, said the court was under pressure and should not reverse its earlier decision to adjourn the case till November 12.

He also indicated that he might not be able to attend hearings during the weekend.

Justice Javed Iqbal, the head of the bench, contested this and said the court would not be affected by any pressure while deciding the matter.

Justice Iqbal said Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, whose daughter is getting married, would attend the hearings over the weekend and will be away only on the day of the marriage.

The bench had on Thursday said it would not be intimidated by threats of the imposition of martial law when it decides whether the beleaguered military ruler was eligible to contest the presidential poll without giving up the post of army chief.

The ruling PML-Q, whose top leaders held hectic consultations till late Thursday night, have advised Musharraf not to impose martial law or declare an emergency.

Senior PML-Q leaders believe such a move would affect the party's prospects in the upcoming general election.

"We want elections to be held on time. There are just rumours of an extraordinary situation in the country," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afghan Niazi had said yesterday dispelling rumours that emergency would be imposed.

Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a close aide of Musharraf, said there was no move to impose martial law as it is "unconstitutional".

PML-Q secretary general Mushahid Hussain Sayed too said he "didn't see martial law on the horizon in case of a negative verdict. There is no room today for martial law." It would be "counter-productive" as the army has its "hands full combating the scourge of terrorism and extremism".

Pakistan's political future hinges on the apex court's verdict in the matter. Musharraf had earlier assured the Supreme Court that he would give up his uniform by November 15 if he is re-elected, but he has been non-committal on his course of action if the court strikes down his victory in the presidential poll.

Musharraf swept the election that was boycotted by the opposition but has not been sworn in for a second term as the apex court has said the result cannot be officially notified till it decides on his candidature.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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