Experts Disagree with Benazir on President’s Term

Washington, DC: Legal and constitutional experts speaking in a Voice of America program broadcast last Thursday disagreed with PPP Chairwoman Benazir Bhutto’s contention that President Musharraf cannot get himself re-elected for a second term before the end of 2007.
The three experts – Waseem Sajjad, Iftikhar Gilani and Dr Sher Afghan — interviewed on VOA by Murtaza Solangi — agreed that presidential elections are due before October 15. All three were of the opinion that “whatever assemblies” are in existence between September 15 and October 15 will elect the president as the office of the president cannot be left vacant under the constitution. However, they agreed that the election could be postponed if the electoral college is not in existence at the time of election.
They were unanimous in maintaining that the election can be postponed if the National Assembly stands dissolved at the time of the president’s election. Dr Sher Afgan opined that if one provincial assembly was dissolved, the election of the president could still go ahead. Iftikhar Gilani said since the constitution has been restored in full, President Musharraf is in violation of it by holding an office of profit as army chief. Under no parliamentary system, he stressed, could the term of the PM be limited to two. He said it would be morally and politically wrong and unwise on the part of President Musharraf to get himself re-elected from the current parliament. He found it odd that office of the army chief had been made equivalent to that of the president.
Waseem Sajjad said if senators could be elected for a longer term, the term that their electors enjoy, why could the same criterion not apply to the president. He said General Musharraf’s term as president before the restoration of the constitution does not count as a term since the constitution was in abeyance then. In effect, he is qualified to be re-elected for a second term, he added.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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