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Lawyer: Pervez too old to be army chief

Islamabad, Sept. 19 (PTI): Opposition lawyer Hamid Khan today attacked President Pervez Musharraf in the supreme court for continuining as army chief even though he had crossed the retirement age.

Khan, who represents the Jamaat-i-Islami party, said the law which allowed Musharraf to hold dual posts should be considered “unconstitutional”.

At a hearing on petitions challenging Musharraf’s bid for re-election as President, Khan said the Pakistan leader had turned 60 on August 10, 2003, the maximum age for a serving general under the Pakistan Army Regulation Act.

“When the service is completed, one must look towards the relevant law. According to the service period of 35 years, Musharraf stands retired in 1999,” Khan said.

Reacting to the lawyer’s argument, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar said: “The post of the chief of the army staff is a constitutional office not governed by the army act”. Khan argued that Musharraf is not eligible to file his nomination papers for the presidential elections as “he has already served two consecutive terms”.

In reply, Justice Khokhar said: “Chief of the army staff is not a rank, it is a constitutional office. You have to keep that in mind.”

Khan said Musharraf had violated his oath as a soldier not to take part in politics. He reminded the apex court that the President broke his pledge before the nation to remove his uniform by December 31, 2004.

The supreme court lawyer said the President to Hold Another Office Act, 2004, discriminated among people occupying similar offices. He urged that the 2004 act be declared unconstitutional.

Khan said that the President holding another office violates the Constitution.

“It is the fundamental right of the people to ensure that the Constitution is not being violated. What was the need of making this amendment in the Constitution, General Musharraf is not the father of the nation,” the lawyer said. He also requested the supreme court to make the chief election commissioner a party to the petition challenging the dual offices of the President.

Musharraf meeting

Musharraf today held a meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Amir Hussain, to assess the impact of his quitting as army chief.

Musharraf said he took the decision to inform the supreme court about his plans after consulting legal experts.

The President said that if everything goes as planned, he would be naming a new vice-army chief — as the incumbent is about to retire — after his re-election, the media quoted him as saying.

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