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Pervez faces ex-judge test
- US deplores ‘disturbing’ crackdown on Opposition

Islamabad, Sept. 24 (PTI): A former supreme court judge, who quit in protest against the 1999 coup by Pervez Musharraf, will oppose the President’s re-election bid.

In an unusually harsh criticism, the US said today it was “extremely disturbed” at the arrest of Pakistani Opposition leaders accused of fomenting trouble ahead of a key court ruling on Musharraf’s re-election bid.

Pakistan’s legal fraternity named Wajeehuddin Ahmed as the first candidate to challenge Musharraf as the supreme court dismissed two legal challenges to the general.

Ahmed’s nomination was announced by retired judge Tariq Mehmood. Ahmed will file his nomination papers on September 27.

Ahmed is not seen as a legitimate contender but his candidacy may be used to mount further legal challenges. He has a very slim chance of winning the presidential elections.

The decision to field Ahmed as a challenge to Musharraf’s re-election came as most of the Opposition parties failed to form a united front against the President.

Police in Islamabad and the nearby city of Rawalpindi launched a crackdown over the weekend on the Opposition to thwart protests outside the supreme court against Musharraf. Some government officials say the demonstrations are meant to sway the court. It is expected to give a ruling on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Sharif, who Musharraf deported to Saudi Arabia hours after flying home on September 10, said about 125 party leaders and activists had been detained.

An interior ministry official said about 50 activists had been held. The US embassy called the crackdown “extremely disturbing” and urged the immediate release of several Opposition leaders.

The criticism was unusually sharp, considering that Washington has been one of the Musharraf’s biggest supporters. “The reports of arrests of the leaders of several major Pakistani political parties are extremely disturbing and confusing for the friends of Pakistan,” an embassy statement said.

At the supreme court today, Musharraf’s lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri was sprayed in the face with black paint by an agitated lawyer, Khurshid Ahmed. A stunned Kasuri, who complained that his eyes were affected, said the incident was a sign that Musharraf’s opponents were losing their case. “When such elements sense their defeat, they resort to such provocative acts,” he said.

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