Pakistan's Musharraf to Seek New Term in Oct. 6 Vote
Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf will seek a new five-year term in elections scheduled for Oct. 6, brushing aside opposition objections and concerns about his waning popularity.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has signaled his intension to resign his post as army chief if re-elected. Opposition parties, meanwhile, have threatened to boycott the vote to deny it legitimacy. There is no sign they will field a candidate of their own.
Government officials confirmed that Musharraf intended to run. Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durrani said the announcement of the election date was "a good day in the history of Pakistan."
Musharraf's current term expires Nov. 15.
Even as the date of the elections was announced Thursday, the country's Supreme Court continued hearing numerous complaints - including over recent changes to the election rules that favor Musharraf. A ruling on the general's eligibility could come within days.
Opponents, including exiled former Premier Nawaz Sharif, whose government fell to Musharraf's coup eight years ago, and a six-member alliance of Islamist parties said their lawmakers would quit if the Election Commission accepts Musharraf's nomination papers.
They vowed to mount street protests as well as more legal challenges to stop Musharraf.
"The letter and the spirit of the constitution do not permit President Musharraf to be a candidate," said Sadiq ul-Farooq, a leader of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party.
Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim dismissed their concerns. "The opposition should come up with its own candidate to participate in the contest, if they have any," he said.
The party of another ex-prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, whose talks with Musharraf over a possible power-sharing deal have stalled, has threatened to join the opposition boycott unless the president relinquishes his army post first.
Musharraf, who became a key ally of the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is also struggling to contain an upsurge in violence by Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
In the latest attack, a bomb exploded outside a hotel in the northern city of Swat on Thursday, killing one police officer and wounding four hotel guards, police said.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press
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