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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Musharraf says majority matters and I have majority as he staged a tainted Presidential election

By M Rama Rao reporting from New Delhi

New Delhi, 07 October ( ): Democracy means majority and I have the majority, declared General Pervez Musharraf Saturday as he staged his second Presidential election and bagged 671 votes out of 695 votes cast by the members of a lame duck parliament but the result will not be known till the Supreme Court gives the green signal. The Court has only allowed the voting in its interim ruling on Friday. The court resumes hearing on election petitions on October 17 and it means Musharraf will have to wait for at least 11 days before he could think of starting his second term. His current Presidential term expires November 15.Pakistan military ruler President Pervez Musharraf, center, arrives to talk to mediaPakistan military ruler President Pervez Musharraf, center, arrives to talk to media

In total, Musharraf won 671 votes, compared with just eight for his main rival — retired judge Wajihuddin Ahmad fielded by the lawyers community. Six ballots were invalid. Ruling-party lawmakers were claiming victory even before counting began. Only a handful of the government's opponents were among the 685 of the 1,170 eligible lawmakers to vote.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Khan Niazi said Musharraf had been "genuinely elected by members of parliament." "Everything about the election was constitutional, legal, moral and legitimate," Niazi said. But the opposition has termed the ballot as invalid while the patron in chief of Musharraf, the United States, has accorded a guarded welcome saying that a democratically staged election is a welcome development.

But exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's aides said, "We will not accept him as President. He flouted the constitution, and he is a person who has hardly any respect for the rule of law".

The voting was a one-legged race. And the contest a three cornered one with PPP leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim and former Supreme Court judge Wajihuddin Ahmed as the nominee of lawyers fraternity in the fray besides Musharraf.

The opposition People's Party of Pakistan abstained from voting as its trade off for the immunity given to its leader Benazir Bhutto by Gen Musharraf in an America brokered power sharing deal. The other opposition notably the Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) and some religious parties have resigned from National and Provincial assemblies to register their demand for Musharraf's exit.

This left the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, also known as the King's party and its allies that include the MQM to rally their lawmakers in support of the 64-year-old General who had seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and cemented his hold on power structure through a referendum in 2002.

Musharraf has pledged to shed uniform if re-elected by the members of the National Assembly (Parliament) and four provincial assemblies who constitute the electoral college. He made a solemn pledge to the effect before the Supreme Court before he filed his nomination this time around too but doubts persist as to his next move.

The polling was held from 10 Am to 3 pm amidst tight security in Islamabad and the four provincial capitals of Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore . Police had put up concrete barricades around Parliament House and checked all persons entering the building.
In all, 342 members in the National Assembly, 100 in the Senate and 728 in the provincial assemblies were covered in the voting. About 200 lawmakers - 87 of the National Assembly and more than 100 of provincial assembly members had resigned ahead of the poll in what is seen as the first major sign of opposition to Musharraf, who, after eight years in office, increasingly looks beleaguered amidst steep fall in.

Musharraf survived three assassination attempts after he seized power from a discredited prime minister Nawaz Sharif . Naturally he calls himself lucky. Whether his luck still remains with him will be known when the Supreme Court gives its ruling on petitions challenging the very election process Musharraf hasa carefully tailored to suit his needs by invoking the Constitution and the United States.

Musharraf's early days as President saw India-Pak relations nose dive to the lowest ebb. A series of terrorist incidents, including the hijacking of an Indian aircraft to Afghanistan in December 1999 and an audacious attack on Parliament in December 2001 pushed the two countries into confrontationist mode since the bitterness of Musharraf's Kargil adventure remained fresh in the memory of most Indians. Both Prime Minister Vajpayee and his successor Manmohan Singh tried to be sympathetic towards Pakistan and extended a warm hand of friendship saying India does not chose its neighbors.

Musharraf's Presidential bid has however taken the sheen out of him. Why he has gone to great lengths to secure legitimacy for his second term and tinkered with the much mutilated Pakistan constitution remains a mystery. But one thins is celar. Credibility will elude him after the Saturday vote.

Just on the eve of the polling, Pervez Musharraf signed an amnesty ordinance that drops corruption cases against Benazir Bhutto and thus paved the way for a power-sharing deal with the former premier.
Benazir, who lives in self-imposed exile is now set to return home later this month. Musharraf's Reconciliation Ordinance benefits every corrupt politician and bureaucrat but not his betenoire Nawaz Sharif, whom he had forced into exile for the second time a few days back.

The way he is returning to President's office for the second term will remain a black mark in his CV. Already, the Washington Post, termed his expected win as 'ugly victory' and dubbed the very election process as 'Pakistan's Tainted Election'.

-Asian Tribune -

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