ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf scored a badly needed victory Friday when the Supreme Court cleared the way for him to run for another term, despite a challenge from opponents who say he is ineligible.
The 6-3 ruling, which dismissed a series of petitions seeking to knock Musharraf off the ballot, will make it difficult for rivals to keep him from winning five more years in office.
The national and provincial assemblies are to vote Oct. 6, and Musharraf is widely believed to have the support he needs.
The court had been seen as the best hope for Musharraf’s opponents to end his eight-year rule. Anti-government lawyers argued that his other job as army chief should disqualify him. But the court’s ruling means Musharraf can seek a new term from the lame-duck assemblies while remaining in uniform and then retire from the army if he wins.
Moments after the court issued its decision Friday afternoon, hundreds of black-suited lawyers who had packed the courtroom began angrily shouting “Shame, shame!” and “Go, Musharraf, go!” as the judges filed back into their chambers. Once outside, the lawyers continued to heap scorn on the court and said the government had pressured the judges to rule in Musharraf’s favor.
“This is not a verdict. It is a dictation. The judgment was written at the president’s house and was sent here to be announced,” said lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd. “This is a black day for Pakistan. The government has succeeded in getting six puppets in its hands.”
Just two months ago, lawyers had celebrated the court for defying Musharraf and reinstating Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, whom Musharraf had tried to fire.