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Musharraf ordered to release foes

The Baltimore Sun

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- With the capital under a tight security lockdown, Pakistan's chief justice issued a sharp new rebuke yesterday to President Pervez Musharraf, ordering the government to release scores of opposition figures rounded up in recent days.

The demand by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry came as Musharraf gave formal notice of his intention to seek re-election as president Oct. 6, and as the Supreme Court prepared to rule on whether the Pakistani general is eligible to run for office while holding the post of army chief.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has promised to relinquish his military role if re-elected to a five-year term as president next week by national and provincial assemblies. His aides have said he will remain army chief if he is not re-elected.

The opposition had vowed to stage major protests yesterday to prevent Musharraf's re-election papers from being filed. But authorities blocked all roads leading to the capital, Islamabad, triggering traffic jams as workers tried to reach their jobs and students were headed for school.

Riot police erected barricades and barbed wire to seal off streets surrounding the Election Commission building, where the nomination papers were filed.

Also blocked off was the area around the Supreme Court, which is expected to hand down a landmark decision today on whether Musharraf is eligible to seek another term while holding his military post. The opposition's threat to disrupt the filing of nomination papers triggered the arrests of scores of party activists beginning Sept. 21.

Laura King writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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