President’s counsel to file clear answer today
ISLAMABAD: The complex political drama unfolding in Pakistan took another unexpected turn with the Supreme Court asking the government to clarify “in black and white” when President Pervez Musharraf’s term of office as the head of state would end.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary gave this direction on Wednesday during the hearing of a petition challenging a 2004 act of Parliament that allows Gen. Musharraf to hold two offices, so that he could retain his post of chief of army staff.
The petition, filed by Jamat-e-Islami, is one in a slew of legal challenges to Gen. Musharraf’s re-election.
President’s counsel Sharifuddin Pirzada said he would have a clear answer for the court on Thursday when the court takes up the matter again.
Attorney-General Malik Qayuum told reporters later that the President’s term would end on November 16, 2007 and that this was the date that would be given to the court.
Under the “President to Hold Dual Office Act 2004”, the President may hold the office of the Chief of the Army Staff, but the Act also says “this provision shall be valid only of the present holder of the office of the President”.
The court’s direction assumes significance in the light of Gen. Musharraf’s repeated statements that he can be re-elected for a second term in uniform.
One of the judges on the seven-member bench hearing the case remarked during the hearing that in his personal opinion, the Act would cease to operate the day Gen. Musharraf’s term ended.
Fom that day onward, the judge said, the constitutional provision disqualifying the head of state from holding an office of profit would kick in.
Akram Sheikh, petitioner’s counsel, said there was no clarity on when the President’s term would end, because he was not an elected President, “only a de facto holder of the office”.
When Gen. Musharraf seized power from Nawaz Sharif, who was Prime Minister, he first declared himself chief executive, allowing incumbent President Rafiq Tarar to continue in office. In June 2001, he removed Mr. Tarar and declared himself the President.
In April 2002, he embarked on a five-tear term as President after a hugely controversial referendum. More than a year later and after much political wrangling, a majority in Parliament endorsed his presidency by giving him a vote of confidence.
Asking President’s counsel to declare the date of expiry of the President’s term, Chief Justice Chaudhary said, “What is the date? Let us have it in black and white.”
The Jamat-e-Islmai is opposing the dual office Act on the ground that no law can be made for just one individual.