Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would hear a petition that challenges the right of President Pervez Musharraf to serve as army chief as he seeks five more years in power.
"The petition is fixed for a regular hearing," Justice Javed Iqbal said of the request that was filed by Qazi Hussein Ahmed, the head of Muttahida Majlis-e-Ammal, an alliance of religious political parties.
The petition claims that Musharraf's term as army chief expired in 2001 under military regulations, and that his eligibility to hold the post ended in 2003 when he turned 60, the retirement age for any Pakistani military officer.
The petition comes amid growing demands from opposition parties for the restoration of full civilian-run democracy.
Musharraf, an army general who took power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, is still heavily reliant on his military status as he seeks a further five-year term from the current parliament by mid-October.
The authors of the petition have been encouraged by the Supreme Court's recent decisions against the government, including the permission granted to Musharraf's main rival and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif to return home after six years in forced exile.
"The people want to get rid of the unconstitutional and dictatorial military regime," Hussain told reporters outside the Supreme Court building, saying that his lawyers also filed a separate petition against the president's re-election plan.
"He is still a government employee, and a government employee can contest elections only two years after retirement," Hussain said.
The schedule of the election is likely to be announced as soon as Musharraf finalizes a power-sharing deal with another opposition leader and ex-prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Bhutto and close aides of the president continued talks in London to settle the terms of the deal, which Pakistani Railways Minister and staunch Musharraf loyalist Sheikh Rashid said were "80 per cent" agreed.
Bhutto had initially sought an assurance from Musharraf that he would step down as army chief by the end of the year. But his increasingly embattled position at home and the strengthening hand of the opposition is thought to have prompted her to demand that he shed his uniform before the polls.
There is also growing public support for a transfer of power to a civilian.
"Today, as President Musharraf points to his 'legal' right to seek re-election in uniform, he must be irked by opinion surveys showing two-thirds of the people in Pakistan in favour of his departure from the scene," Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper wrote Wednesday.
"More shocking for him must be the "comeback" of the very political parties he thought he had broken and buried with popular support," it added.
Bhutto's demands are also thought to include immunity from prosecution for her and her entourage, as well as constitutional amendments that would allow her to serve a third term as premier.
Meanwhile, despite the threat of renewed corruption allegations against him, Sharif has pledged to return to Pakistan to lead his party in the elections. Pakistan will also elect new parliamentary assemblies within three months of the presidential polls.
Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2007, 18:25