Pakistan court due to rule on Musharraf's election

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ISLAMABAD, Sep 28 (Reuters) Pakistan's Supreme Court was due to rule today on challenges to military president Pervez Musharraf's bid to un in an Oct. 6 election after lawyers concluded their arguements.

The court will reconvene at 1415 hrs when nine judges are due to deliver a ruling that could have far reaching consequences for Pakistan's transition to greater democracy, eight years after Musharraf took power.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan faces months of uncertainty as Musharraf tries to keep control of a country whose support for the United States is seen as crucial to the success of Western efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and battle al Qaeda.

The court is hearing petitions challenging Musharraf's right to hold the posts of president and army chief, the legality of being elected in uniform, and whether he can get a mandate from outgoing assemblies before general elections due by mid-January.

If the court blocks his re-election, analysts say he might impose emergency rule or dissolve parliament and seek a mandate as a civilian from assemblies after a general election.

Musharraf has vowed to quit the army, his main source of power, after winning another term. He has held both posts under a 2004 constitutional amendment, but his presidential term ends on November 15 and he is due to give up his army post by year's end.

An electoral college comprising members of the National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies will vote for a president before the assemblies are dissolved.

OPPOSITION TO RESIGN Musharraf submitted his nomination papers to the Election Commission yesterday.

Wajihuddin Ahmed, a former Supreme Court judge who refused to swear allegiance to Musharraf after his 1999 coup, also filed nomination papers as did a senior member of the opposition Pakistan People's Party of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Makhdoom Amin Faheem.

In all, 43 candidates filed papers, the Election Commission said.

A final list will be published on Monday.

An alliance of opposition parties led by the party of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, announced in Peshawar its members would resign from assemblies on Tuesday in protest against Musharraf's re-election bid.

The alliance also said the chief minister of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), ruled by Islamist parties, would call for the dissolution of the provincial assembly the same day.

The NWFP is at the centre of a wave of attacks by militants supported by al Qaeda.

The resignations would not derail the vote -- Musharraf only needs to win most of the votes cast and his PML holds a majority in parliament -- but it would detract from its credibility.

Separately, the Supreme Court summoned Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and other top officials to explain why former prime minister Sharif was deported on Sept. 10 after arriving home vowing to challenge Musharraf.

Sharif, who Musharraf overthrew in 1999 was deported despite a Supreme Court ruling in August that he had the right to come back and the government should not try to stop him.

REUTERS YA AS1408

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