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Pakistani court upholds Bhutto's dismissal

Elections to go on as planned

January 29, 1997
Web posted at: 10:25 a.m. EST (1525 GMT)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court has cleared the way for new national elections, ruling Wednesday that President Farooq Leghari was legally justified when he dismissed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on November 5.

"There is enough material to establish corruption, nepotism and misrule," said Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah at the close of the hearing that began January 13 on Bhutto's petition to have her dismissal reversed.

Six of the seven judges ruled that Leghari's attorneys had shown ample evidence of violating the constitution, ridiculing and harassing judges, and tapping the phones of judges, civil servants and political opponents.

Bhutto has denied the charges, and accused Leghari of dismissing her government to consolidate his own power. Bhutto called the ruling "unfair," but said she was not surprised.

"I didn't expect any justice," she said.

Witnesses said police and Bhutto supporters clashed outside the court immediately following the verdict, but there was no word on arrests or injuries. Hundreds of riot police surrounded the courthouse, preventing them from storming the building.


Bhutto's petition to have her dismissal reversed was aimed at restoring her to power and blocking the February 3 elections. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party leads Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party in opinion polls by about 40 percent to 20 percent.

Ironically, Sharif's government was dismissed in 1993 for corruption. Bhutto was first elected prime minister in 1988, and dismissed 20 months later on corruption charges. She was re-elected after Sharif's dismissal.

New Delhi Bureau Chief Anita Pratap and Reuters contributed to this report.


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