| Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addresses a gathering after inaugurating the tunnel at Kohat, near Peshawar, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Islamabad, June 11 (PTI): In a major setback to Pakistan’s opposition parties agitation questioning the legality of the presidency of Pervez Musharraf, the Lahore high court has ruled that the military ruler’s election though a referendum was valid under law and he was legally entitled to hold the offices of both President as well as chief of army.
Ruling that the election of Musharraf through a referendum last year was valid, a division bench of the Lahore high court has held that it saw nothing wrong with the general holding the post of chief of army simultaneously.
The Opposition has shut down parliament for over six months demanding Musharraf quit as chief of army as a compromise to accept his presidency and his constitutional amendments with modifications.
“We have not noted anything in the constitution which would debar the President from remaining in uniform nor is his holding the two office simultaneously creating any hindrance to the smooth functioning of the government or any other institution,” the bench said yesterday while elaborating on its short order issued recently.
The court, in response to a petition filed by lawyers forum further ruled that “none of the constitutional provisions is affected if the President remains in the uniform. Therefore, decision by the President that he would take off the uniform on a date of his own choice does not impinge upon any constitutional provision and Article 6, in no way is attracted to this case.”
The court order followed an agitation by the influential lawyers community against attempts to “subvert” the judiciary by the government with inducements like a three-year extension of service to all higher court judges.
The lawyers community also backed the Opposition’s agitation against Musharraf’s constitutional amendments. The Lahore high court order clearly backs Musharraf’s assertions that he should be allowed to choose when to quit as chief of army. The judgement comes as a shot in arm for the military ruler, specially ahead of his crucial visit to the US and three other western countries later this month.
Following the court order, Musharraf whose confidants earlier held hectic negotiations with the Opposition, specially with that of the Islamist alliance, Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) struck a hardline stance and said he would continue in uniform.
The court also refused to take into account the argument that the referendum through which Musharraf was elected was not valid.
It declared the status of referendum order 2002 was unquestionable as it was promulgated in accordance with proclamation of emergency order 1999.
“The President was elected under the provisions of the referendum order 2002, as the electoral college prescribed by the constitution for the election of the President did not even exist. Therefore, the provisions of the constitution on this subject would not attract to this case,” it said.