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Musharraf government’s two-term limit on prime ministers

benazir-bhutto-blueIn mid-2002, Pervez Musharraf implemented a two-term limit on Prime Ministers. Both Bhutto and Musharraf's other chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, had already served two terms as Prime Minister.

In July 2007, some of Benazir's frozen funds were released. However, she continued to face significant charges of corruption.

Giving an interview on August 8, 2007, to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, she said she wanted return to Pakistan for the 2008 elections, with Musharraf retaining the presidency with her as prime minister. On 29 August 2007, she announced that Musharraf would step down as army chief. On 1 September 2007, Benazir said she would return to Pakistan "very soon", regardless of whether she reached a power-sharing deal with Musharraf before then or not.

On 17 September 2007, Benazir Bhutto accused Musharraf's allies of pushing Pakistan into crisis by their refusal to permit democratic reforms and power-sharing. A nine-member panel of Supreme Court judges deliberated on six petitions (including one from Jamaat-e-Islami,) asserting that Musharraf be disqualified from contending for the presidency.

Benazir stated that her party could join one of the opposition groups, potentially that of Nawaz Sharif. Attorney-general Malik Mohammed Qayyum stated that, pendente lite, the Election Commission was "reluctant" to announce the schedule for the presidential vote.

PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar stated that the Constitution of Pakistan could bar Musharraf from being elected again because he was already chief of the army.

Musharraf prepared to resign from his position as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He still faced other legal obstacles to running for re-election. On 2 October 2007, Gen. Musharraf named Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, as vice chief of the army starting 8 October with the intent that if Musharraf won the presidency and resigned his military post, Kayani would become chief of the army.

Meanwhile, Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed stated that officials agreed to grant Benazir Bhutto amnesty versus pending corruption charges.

On 5 October 2007, Musharraf signed the National Reconciliation Ordinance, giving amnesty to Benazir and other political leaders, except exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif, in all court cases against them, including all corruption charges. The ordinance came a day before Musharraf faced the crucial presidential poll.

Both the PPP, and the ruling PML-Q, were involved in negotiations beforehand about the deal. In return, Bhutto and the PPP agreed not to boycott the presidential election. On 6 October 2007, Musharraf won a parliamentary election for President. However, the Supreme Court ruled that no winner can be officially proclaimed until it finishes deciding on whether it was legal for Musharraf to run for president while remaining Army General.

The PPP party did not join other opposition parties' boycott of the election, and did stayed away from voting. Later, Benazir demanded security coverage provided for presidents. She also contracted foreign security firms for her protection.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2011