Source AP ©

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf likely to be rejected for re-election

Attorneys on Friday urged Pakistan's Supreme Court to reject President Gen. Pervez Musharraf candidacy for re-election, saying it was critical to separate the military from politics.

A decision was expected later in the day on challenges to the general's pursuit of a new five-year term.

Critics say Musharraf cannot run because he has retained his position as army chief. With his popularity and clout eroding, the general has said he would doff his uniform if he wins a new five-year term.

A.K. Dogar, arguing on behalf of a lawyers' organization, said Musharraf "suffers from inherent pre-election disqualification," and urged the nine-justice panel not to shy away from a sweeping verdict.

"The core issue is how to separate the armed forces from the politics of the country," he said.

Another attorney, Akram Sheikh, said it was the court's duty "to throw the uniform into the gutter."

The government has insisted that Musharraf is a qualified candidate.

How Musharraf would react to a negative ruling is a subject of intense speculation. Some observers predict he would dissolve Parliament, delaying the Oct. 6 presidential vote. The most drastic option would be to impose emergency rule or martial law.

The government has said Musharraf would not do that, but The Post newspaper claimed such draconian measures remained options if the court rules against him.

The capital appeared calm Friday. A massive security lockdown the previous day designed to prevent anti-Musharraf protests was lifted following an order by the Supreme Court, which is considering several legal challenges to Musharraf's candidacy.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry on Thursday ordered the release of some 200 or more opposition leaders arrested for trying to derail Musharraf's re-election plan. The detentions have drawn rare public criticism from the United States, Pakistan's main ally.