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Pakistan top court orders government to produce voter registration records

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] ordered the Pakistani government to produce complete voter registration records Friday after former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] petitioned that there were up to 30 million missing registrations. Bhutto's lawyer Latif Khosa argued that the 2002 registration had failed to account for 20 million eligible voters, and that an estimated additional 10 million Pakistanis had become eligible for the 2007 elections, which are scheduled for November. Newly reinstated Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry [official website; JURIST news archive] rejected a request by government lawyers for 140 days to produce the records, and gave the government 30 days to complete the list.

The ruling is the latest setback to a bid by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] to extend his eight-year rule by another five years. Last Friday, the high court ordered that jailed opposition leader Javed Hashmi be released on bail [JURIST report]. Hashmi is appealing his 2004 conviction [BBC report] for inciting mutiny in the armed forces, forgery and defamation by circulating an unsigned letter allegedly written by army officers opposed to Musharraf. Musharraf, who is also under pressure to resign as Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army, last week publicly accepted [JURIST report] the judgment of the judiciary to reinstate [order] Chaudhry to his post after Musharraf suspended him in March. Many lawyers and opposition leaders have alleged that the suspension [JURIST report] was an indirect bid to forestall any legal challenges if Musharraf seeks to extend his rule. BBC News has more.

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