Pakistan's top court squashes rumors, orders elections as planned
The order comes amid rumor that the military and judiciary want to force out a civilian leader and delay the elections that will mark the first time a civilian government in Pakistan has completed a full term.
Pakistan's powerful Supreme Court on Thursday ordered imminent general elections to go ahead as planned in a bid to quash fears a fledgling democratic process is about to be derailed.
The order came amid speculation that the military is working with the judiciary to force out a civilian leader and delay the elections that will mark the first time a civilian government in Pakistan¬†has completed a full term since independence in 1947.
"The executive, both civilian and military, shall not take any action or steps that are tantamount to deviation from the election," Chief Justice¬†Iftikhar Chaudhry¬†ruled.
"Deviation from the constitution or introducing any other system not recognised by the constitution shall not be acceptable."
The general election is expected in May.
This month, a firebrand cleric,¬†Tahirul Qadri, camped outside parliament with thousands of supporters calling on the government to step down.
The timing of Qadri's return from six years in¬†Canada, just a few months before elections are due, and his role in supporting a 1999 coup by former¬†army¬†chief¬†Pervez Musharraf, had raised fears that the¬†army¬†was using him to bring down the government and provide a pretext to hand-pick a caretaker cabinet.
Under Chaudhry, the¬†Supreme Court, which has final say on interpreting the constitution, has been embroiled in a long-running showdown with the government that has laid bare institutional tension plaguing a country that has developed nuclear weapons but has yet to agree on how it should be run.
The military, which has ruled Pakistan¬†for about half of its 66 years as an independent nation, has not hidden its disdain for the government of President¬†Asif Ali Zardari, but has said it does not wish to seize power this time round.
The judges' eagerness to rewrite the rules of Pakistan's¬†power game have won it support among those who see the judiciary as the only realistic hope of holding their leaders to account.
Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel