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Pakistan high court dismisses martial law fears, rules out full-court hearing

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] Wednesday dismissed concerns that President Pervez Musharraf [official website] would declare martial law [JURIST report] if the court invalidates his disputed election victory, with the top presiding judge telling the court that such fears will not influence the court's decision making. The court is hearing arguments [JURIST report] against Musharraf's re-election campaign by two of Musharraf's opponents, who say that he was ineligible to participate in the election while he was the army chief. According to unofficial tallies, Musharraf won by a large margin [JURIST report] in the election earlier this month. He has promised to step down from his military role and lead the country as a civilian if the court validates his victory. AFP has more.

Also Wednesday, Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry [official website; JURIST news archive] rejected requests that the full 17-member court hear the election challenges. Chaudhry said that two justices should not participate in the hearings because they had already expressed opinions on the merits of the case, and that several other justices had scheduling conflicts. Chaudhry himself has refused to participate in the hearings after a debacle earlier this year, when Musharraf suspended Chaudhry [JURIST report] in March on allegations of corruption [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry [JURIST report] in July. Many believed that the suspension was meant to prevent Chaudhry from interfering with any attempt by Musharraf to extend his eight-year rule in the elections. ANI has more.

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