Nirupama Subramanian

Poll panel amends rules

Rules changed on the basis of two Supreme Court judgments

Petitions on dual office to be heard today

ISLAMABAD: Ahead of the crucial Supreme Court hearing on Monday of a petition challenging Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s holding of dual office, the Election Commission has changed rules to enable him to run for another term in office.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi disclosed on Saturday that election rules were amended last week on the basis of Supreme Court judgments in 2002 and 2005 that said the disqualification clauses in the Constitution did not apply to Gen. Musharraf. The Opposition parties immediately cried foul.

Mr. Niazi said that as a subordinate court, the Commission was bound to make the required changes in the wake of the court judgments.

As per the changes, Article 63, which stipulates reasons for disqualifying a candidate for elections, cannot be invoked by a returning officer to raise objections or to reject Gen. Musharraf’s candidature.

Among the clauses under Article 63 is the disqualification of a person holding a government office, and a two-year bar on government employees after retirement.

Notification gazetted

The Minister said neither of these two clauses would apply to Gen. Musharraf after the notification, which has been gazetted.

In other words, Gen. Musharraf can now contest for the presidential elections while remaining the Army Chief, or even if he relinquishes the post. The date for the election is expected to be announced on September 18.

Retirement option

Speculation is that it may be held on or soon after October 8, the day key figures in the military are due to retire. This includes the appointments of the Army Vice-Chief and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.With the revelation about the Commission’s notification, political circles are abuzz with talk that Gen. Musharraf may also announce his own retirement at the same time and appoint a new Army chief, and contest the election as a civilian.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming pronouncement on the issue of Gen. Musharraf’s dual office is bound to impact on the proposed election.

Petitions on this issue, including those of the Jamat-i-Islami, a separate one by its leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf leader Imran Khan, have been clubbed and will be heard by a nine-judge Bench daily from Monday.

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