Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistani opposition members resigned en masse as two of Musharraf's political rivals filed new petitions in the supreme court challenging the general's eligibility to stand for the presidency.

Power-sharing talks

Bhutto, who was prime minister between 1988 and 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996, has lived in London and Dubai since 1999 because of the charges pending against her.

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She held a series of talks with Musharraf about her planned return but they stalled on a number of issues including her demand that politicians who served during her time in power should be given an amnesty.
  
They also disagreed on whether Musharraf should give up his role as head of the army and on her stipulation that the government overturn rules preventing people serving a third term as prime minister.

Senior government officials said the amnesty would be formalised in a presidential order later on Tuesday.
  
"The president is issuing an ordinance granting amnesty to politicians against whom cases were constituted between 1985 and 1999 as part of his national reconciliation drive," a senior government official told the AFP news agency.

Musharraf recently promised to step down as military leader if re-elected and on Tuesday appointed Lieutenant General Ashfaq Kiani, a former head of the intelligence services, as the vice-chief of the army.

Kiani will succeed Musharraf as and when he steps down from his military post. 

 

But opponents want the president to quit the position before the election.


They also want the the election to be carried out by a new assembly formed after a general election rather than the current legislature.

 

Resignation

Early on Tuesday opposition members of parliament backed by hundreds of flag-waving supporters marched to the parliament to resign.

  

Imran Khan, the former cricketer and one of the leaders of the anti-Musharraf Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, said: "This is the first step to discredit the election process."

  

The MPs and about 600 supporters, most of whom carried flags of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, marched from a parliamentary apartment building in Islamabad to the national assembly.

They shouted slogans such as: "This is the end of your show - Go Musharraf, Go!" and "A friend of America is a traitor".


"After our resignation, Musharraf's success would have no value," Maulana Fazal-ur Rahman, leader of the opposition in parliament, said.


Musharraf is expected to win the poll as his allies dominate the current national and federal parliaments that are conducting the vote - but opponents hope that the planned resignations, numbering more than 80 will erode its legitimacy.

 

Legal challenge

 

Two candidates standing against Musharraf in the election meanwhile lodged appeals in the supreme court against his re-election, saying that the nomination papers he filed last week were invalid.

 
"After our resignation, Musharraf's success would have no value"

Maulana Fazal-ur Rahman,
opposition leader
Wajihuddin Ahmad, a former supreme court judge, urged the court to reject Musharraf's nomination papers and stop the vote on Saturday.
 
Ashtar Ausaf Ali, his lawyer, said: "The petition asks that all Musharraf's nomination papers be rejected and that the presidential election should be stayed."
 

The COAS [chief of army staff] should be declared ineligible and until a decision on the petition, the election should be stayed," Ausaf Ali said, shortly before he filed the petition on behalf of Ahmad.

   

Ahmad resigned from his supreme court posy in 2000 rather than swear allegiance to Musharraf, who seized power in a coup a year earlier.

 

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who is also standing in the vote and represents the party led by Benazir Bhutto has also urged the court to halt the election.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies