Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday dismissed legal challenges to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s bid for a new five-year term, allowing the military leader to run in the Oct. 6 election while retaining his role as army chief.
“These petitions are held to be non-maintainable,” presiding Judge Rana Bhagwandas told the court, drawing howls of protests from lawyers in the gallery.
“Shame, shame!” and “Go, Mushharraf, go!” they said as they pumped their fists in the air in the packed, cavernous courtroom.
Bhagwandas gave no reason for the ruling, which was decided by a 6-3 vote among the justices.
The government has insisted all along that Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup, is a qualified candidate. Critics have countered that he cannot run because he has retained his position as powerful army chief.
With his popularity and clout eroding, the general has said he would take off his uniform if he wins a new presidential term in the vote by federal and provincial legislators.
Musharraf has faced growing political opposition since his failed attempt to oust Pakistan’s top judge in March. He is struggling to contain growing Islamic militancy.
Friday’s ruling will bitterly disappoint activists from the opposition and the legal fraternity who saw the ruling as an acid test of whether the military could be divorced from politics.
Farid Piracha, a lawmaker from Pakistan biggest religious party Jamaat-e-Islami, which had filed one of the several petition challenging Musharraf’s eligibility to run — said he refused to accept the ruling.
“The judges have not fulfilled their constitutional obligation,” Piracha said. “Now our fight against dictatorship will be on the streets ... This decision does not reflect the sentiments of the people, and it will not be accepted.”