ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- A Supreme Court hand-picked by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf swiftly dismissed legal challenges to his continued rule on Monday, opening the way for him to serve another five-year term - this time solely as a civilian president.
The opposition has denounced the new court, saying any decisions by a tribunal stripped of independent voices had no credibility. Musharraf purged the court Nov. 3 when he declared emergency rule, days before the tribunal was expected to rule on his eligibility to serve as president.
The United States has put immense pressure on Musharraf to restore the constitution and free thousands of political opponents jailed under the emergency before Pakistan's critical parliamentary election Jan. 8.
Monday's court ruling could hasten Musharraf's decision to give up his army post. The general has said he would quit as armed forces commander by the end of the month, assuming he was given the legal go-ahead by the court to remain as president.
Negroponte, Washington's No. 2 diplomat, was blunt in comments Sunday after his meetings with Musharraf and other senior military and political figures, saying the emergency rule was "not compatible with free, fair and credible elections."
But Pakistan was quick to dismiss those concerns, saying the senior American diplomat brought no new proposals on his weekend visit, and received no assurances after urging Musharraf to restore the constitution.
The face-off leaves the Bush administration with limited options in steering its nuclear-armed ally back toward democracy.
Senior Bush administration officials have said publicly that they have no plans to cut off the billions of dollars in military aid that Pakistan receives each year.
How very odd...