________________________________________________________________________ Pakistan's president steps down ____________________________________________________________________________ Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (December 2, 1997 10:47 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) -- President Farooq Ahmed Leghari resigned Tuesday, a surprise move in an escalating political crisis that has divided Pakistan's government and raised fears of a military takeover. The crisis -- arising out of a feud between the chief justice and prime minister -- has split the Supreme Court and Parliament and cast the army chief in the unlikely role of mediator. Conflicting rulings issued Tuesday by rival Supreme Court justices deepened the crisis. Earlier Tuesday, army chief of staff Gen. Jehangir Karamat shuttled between the president and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, trying to broker a solution. Later, the president resigned and it was announced that an acting chief justice would be named. There was no immediate explanation for either move. Underlying the chaos were fears that the army would step in to take control in Pakistan, which has been under military rule for 25 of its 50 years. After the conflicting judgments came out of the Supreme Court, Karamat held a series of emergency meetings with both the president and prime minister, as well as Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. It's not known definitively what occurred during the closed-door meetings, but Karamat is believed to have pushed for Pakistan's Parliament to continue. The current crisis stems from a clash several months ago between Sharif and Shah over the appointment of five new judges to the Supreme Court, which expanded the bench from 12 to 17. Shah accused the prime minister and the government of manipulating the Supreme Court and creating the divisions on the bench. Shah eventually won that battle, but not before he resurrected corruption charges against the prime minister and struck down other legislation passed by Parliament. He also charged the prime minister with contempt of court. Sharif has accused both the chief justice and the president of conspiring to undermine his 10-month-old government. Earlier this year, both the government and opposition parties had voted in a constitutional amendment to withdraw the president's power to dismiss elected governments. Leghari invoked that power in 1996 to dismiss Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Tuesday, the chief justice ruled to restore the president's constitutional power to dismiss Parliament. Many had expected Leghari would then dismiss Sharif's 10-month-old government, after earlier statements by the president accusing Sharif's government of staging an attack on the Supreme Court and of resorting to the "law of the jungle." But almost immediately after Shah's ruling, 10 other justices sitting in a nearby courtroom overturned it. These justices have been opposed to Shah on the grounds that he was wrongly promoted to chief justice, ahead of other more senior judges.
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