| Musharraf supporters celebrate in Lahore on Saturday. (AFP)
Islamabad, Oct. 6: President Pervez Musharraf easily won the presidential election today, but an Opposition boycott and pending supreme court hearings on his eligibility left him with an incomplete victory.
The vote, by national and provincial Assemblies, virtually ended up as a one-man race. All Opposition parties refused to participate, and only ruling coalition legislators and a few independents voted.
Musharraf, however, cannot be officially declared the winner till the apex court decides on petitions by two presidential candidates, Wajihuddin Ahmad and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, challenging the legality of his bid. The petitions are to be heard on October 17.
The general won 252 of the 257 votes in the National Assembly and Senate while former supreme court judge Ahmad won two votes, the election commission announced. The provincial Assemblies returned similarly clear margins.
Musharraf was widely expected to win because the ruling coalition holds a majority in all but one provincial Assembly.
“I knew this would happen because our Assemblies are… rubber stamp Assemblies,” Ahmad said.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said: “The successful holding of presidential election reflects the supremacy of the rule of law in the country.”
Ahmad and Fahim have raised constitutional objections to Musharraf being elected by the outgoing Assemblies, to the general running for what is in effect a third presidential term, and to him running for elected office in uniform.
A lawyers’ movement, opposed on constitutional grounds to Musharraf’s eight years of military rule, and all the main Opposition parties are backing the legal challenges.
Divisions within the Opposition, however, played to Musharraf’s advantage.
Some 80 Opposition members resigned their seats earlier in the week in protest against Musharraf standing for election while still holding the post of army chief. But former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, which has been negotiating a power-sharing deal with Musharraf, chose only to abstain, preventing an attempt to declare the vote invalid.
“The PPP is part of the government — they are on board,” said Aijax Ahmed Chaudhry, a legislator from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam).
Whatever disquiet some members of the ruling party had against military rule melted away on the day.
Former tourism minister Nilofar Bakhtiar, who had said she would not vote for Musharraf if he remained in uniform, said his recent promise to the supreme court that he would resign his military post after the election had satisfied her. “I am here only because he said he would take off his uniform,” she said. “He will take the oath in a suit.” She said she believed the general would also respect the court if it ruled against him.