The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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General’s rivals kept out of polls in Pak

Karachi, Sept. 13: Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has finally succeeded in keeping his arch rivals, the Sharif and Bhutto families, out of the coming elections.

While former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif preferred to withdraw his nomination papers, former Premier Benazir Bhutto’s nominations were rejected by election officials. Appeals against the rejection of papers were dismissed by two election tribunals today.

Bhutto, living in Dubai and London in self-exile, had recently been sentenced to three years by an accountability court for not appearing.

President Musharraf through an amendment in the constitution disqualified Bhutto from contesting the elections. This formed the basis for rejection of Bhutto’s nomination papers and of dismissing the subsequent appeals.

Bhutto’s lawyers have been contesting the decision of the returning officials on the plea that Gen. Musharraf’s amendment is person specific. “No one else in the whole country, other than Bhutto, has been affected by this amendment,” her lawyer Farooq Naik said.

However, the election tribunals did not accept this plea and dismissed the appeal.

This is the first time in the history of the Pakistan People’s Party, founded by Bhutto’s father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, that the PPP has not been taking part in any elections.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif withdrew his papers from a Lahore constituency “to express solidarity with Bhutto” when her papers were rejected.

Sharif, who was exiled to Saudi Arabia by Musharraf, was perhaps hoping that his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif and wife Kulsoom Nawaz would contest the elections in his place. But, their papers too were rejected by another election tribunal in Lahore on the plea that they had been issuing statements against the army, a crime under election rules.

With the Sharif and Bhutto families out, Musharraf has lesser rivals, like the religious parties to deal with.

But these parties will not give him a tough time in the elections.

Zardari sentenced

A Pakistan court sentenced the jailed husband of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to seven years in prison with hard labour for corruption and abuse of power, official media said.

In a ruling late yesterday, the accountability court in Rawalpindi also disqualified Asif Ali Zardari from holding public office for five years after the end of the sentence, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said.

Bhutto’s PPP denounced the verdict in a statement today and said it would appeal.

She herself condemned the decison as the “murder of justice” by “pygmies.”

“Those who perpetrated it will surely be punished as all wrongdoers ultimately are, and those who suffer for a cause will be truly rewarded,” she said in a statement released by the PPP.

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