Musharraf tries to legitimise poll

Click to follow
The Independent Online

President Pervez Musharraf made last-minute changes to Pakistan's constitution yesterday, shoring up his legal defenses before lifting a six-week-old state of emergency, a senior official said.

Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum said Musharraf may also move to restore the credibility of January elections by suspending local mayors and scrapping a two-term limit for prime ministers.

The US-backed leader cast Pakistan into turmoil and raised serious doubts over the credibility of next month's parliamentary elections by imposing a state of emergency on 3 November.

He is expected to lift the emergency and restore the constitution on Saturday. But he still faces a barrage of criticism at home and abroad that the 8 January ballot will be flawed.

Musharraf has said he acted to halt a "conspiracy" by top judges to end his eight-year rule and ward off political chaos that would hobble Pakistan's efforts against Islamic extremism.

He has also insisted that the Supreme Court, which had been poised to rule on the legality of his October re-election, was acting beyond the constitution.

But yesterday's move appeared to confirm the opinion of many legal experts that the president's case had been weak.

Musharraf removed a condition from the charter stating that civil servants had to wait two years after their retirement before running for elected office, Qayyum told The Associated Press.

Musharraf stepped down from his powerful post of army chief only last month.

"The clause asking for a wait of two years for any government servant after retirement has been removed," Qayyum told The Associated Press.

He said other changes sealed the retirement of purged Supreme Court judges, including former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who either refused or were not invited to sign a fresh oath in the wake of the emergency. Their replacements swiftly approved Musharraf's re-election.

Earlier Qayyum said Musharraf was considering whether to grant an opposition demand for the suspension of mayors to prevent them from influencing the Jan. 8 parliamentary and provincial elections.

The US-backed leader may also lift a ban on anyone serving more than twice as prime minister, he said.

That could ease his fraught relations with opposition leaders and archrivals Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.