The Pakistan Government indicated today that General Pervez Musharraf would remain President for a period of five years, media reports said.
"The tenure is well defined for the office of the President. It is very clear," defence spokesman and Press Secretary to Gen. Musharraf, General Rashid Qureshi was quoted by the local daily The News as saying.
The "clarification" of the tenure came after Gen. Musharraf's self-appointment was challenged in the Sindh and Lahore High Courts yesterday, questioning the constitutional validity of his takeover.
Qureshi's statement clearly indicated that Gen. Musharraf was thinking of completing his own fresh tenure as President and would not merely complete the remaining term of ousted President Rafiq Tarar, the daily said.
The confusion about Gen. Musharraf's tenure followed the order issued by the military ruler himself which stated that "the Chief Executive shall hold the office as President until his successor enters upon office". The order left the tenure and the duration wide open.
Asked whether President Musharraf would seek a vote of confidence from the newly elected Parliament after elections in October 2002, Qureshi said "We will cross that bridge when we get to it."
Qureshi's statement meant that though Gen. Musharraf had promised to hold polls by October 2002 as mandated by the Supreme Court, the wording of his order, ''until his next successor is appointed" leave his options wide open.
The news quoting analysts said the obvious interpretation which the Government would give to Gen. Musharraf's oath as President would be for a five-year term but the matter would ultimately have to be decided by the higher courts as it is most likely to be challenged by the Opposition.
It said consitutional experts were not clear how the courts would judge the oath since it had been administered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Irshad Hasan Khan, who had also agreed to become acting President, whenever Musharraf is out of the country.
The first opportunity for Justice Khan to become acting President would be when Gen. Musharraf visits New Delhi on July 14 for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Meanwhile, Gen. Musharraf's takeover has been challenged in the two High Courts.
In Karachi, his appointment was challenged by a senior lawyer, Sohail Hammed, who questioned the consitutional status of the military ruler as President. The application cites the President of Pakistan as respondent. The petition would come up for hearing on June 28.
A similar petition was filed in the Lahore High Court by the secretary of the Peoples Lawyers Forum, Mian Hanif Tahir. The petitioner prayed the court to declare the act of assumption of the consitutitonal post of President of Pakistan as without lawful authority, void and of no legal effect.