Pak SC to hear petitions challenging Bhutto-Musharraf deal

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Islamabad, Oct 12 (UNI) Pakistan's Supreme Court today decided to hear a raft of petitions challenging the promulgation of a presidential ordinance dropping graft charges against former premier Benazir Bhutto in several corruption cases.

A three-member bench headed by chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry fixed the petitions for hearing after three weeks, saying that a larger bench would be constituted for the purpose.

President Pervez Musharraf had issued the ordinance just a day ahead of the presidential elections on October 6, giving amnesty to Ms Bhutto, her spouse Asif Ali Zardari and several other Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders in corruption cases.

''While we cannot suspend operation of any ordinance, we are inclined to observer in unambigious terms that benefit(s) drawn by or intended to be drawn by any holder of public office will be subject to decision on petitions challenging the ordinance,'' the chief justice said.

The beneficiaries would not be entitled to claim any protection under any provisions of the law if it was declared ''ultra vires of the constitution'', he added.

Ms Bhutto, who had announced to return home on October 18, had been advised yesterday by General Musharraf to put off her plans till the apex court took decision on twin petitions that challenged his candidature for presidential election.

The court had allowed Gen Musharraf on October 5 to contest election but said that election results would not be declared till decision on the two petitions was taken.

Earlier counsels for the petitioners, including chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Qazi Hussain Ahmad and ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's younger brother and former chief minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, said that the law had been drafted to benefit a group of people.

They said person-specific law, which had changed structure of the constitution and allowed plunderers of national exchequer to get away with their loot, was against Islamic principle of equality.

UNI

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