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Court dismisses petitions against Musharraf

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  • NEW: U.S. looks at how it can help boost Pakistan's Frontier Corps
  • Judges dismiss five petitions contesting Musharraf's re-election
  • Decision brings Musharraf closer to taking oath of office
  • Opposition politician Imran Khan begins hunger strike
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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani Supreme Court, packed with judges appointed in recent days by President Pervez Musharraf, dismissed five major petitions against him Monday contesting the validity of his re-election, the nation's attorney general said.

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Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has been under pressure to lift a state of emergency.

The move brings Musharraf closer to taking the oath of office for a new term as president. He has said that he will step down as military leader before starting a new 5-year term, but he cannot be sworn into office until the parliamentary election results are final.

"There were five petitions, they have all been dismissed. There is only one left and that will be heard on Thursday," Malik Mohammad Qayyum told CNN.

Pro-democracy activists have said the new supreme court's decisions have no validity.

Musharraf originally promised to give up his military uniform in 2004, a vow that helped him win a confidence vote in parliament but then reneged saying he needed to maintain the post to fight terrorism.

Hours after declaring a state of emergency on Nov. 3, Musharraf dismissed nearly all of Supreme Court judges, along with suspending the constitution, imposing severe media restrictions, and clamping down on opposition protests that followed.

U.S. President George W. Bush and other international leaders have called on him to restore democracy in /topics/Pakistan" class="cnnInlineTopic">Pakistan by ending the emergency order before elections, which Musharraf says will take place before Jan. 9.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Sunday that he had expressed to Musharraf the United States' displeasure with Pakistan's emergency rule and urged him to lift the order and release all political detainees ahead of elections.

"Emergency rule is not compatible with free, fair and credible elections, which require the active participation of political parties, civil society and the media," Negroponte told reporters Sunday after his two-hour meeting with Musharraf on Saturday.

Nearly all leaders of Pakistani opposition parties have been jailed or placed under house arrest, and charged under anti-terrorism measures. Pakistan People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto has been placed under house arrest twice. She was most recently released Friday morning.

Bhutto and other opposition leaders have accused Musharraf of imposing the emergency order so he could remain in power by avoiding an expected ruling from the Supreme Court that would have nullified his October election victory.

Another opposition figure, former Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan, has gone on a hunger strike in prison, according to his spokesman.

Khan, who heads the Movement for Justice Party, was seized by police Wednesday after surfacing at a student rally at the University of Punjab in Lahore, police said. He was facing anti-terrorism charges, police sources said.

Meanwhile two U.S. military officials have confirmed to CNN that the Bush Administration is looking at new ways to bolster Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of more than 60,000 troops operating in the federally administered areas of the North-West Frontier Province and Waziristan, said by the US to be an al Qaeda safe haven.

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Both officials declined to be named because the plan has not been approved, but both have knowledge of what is being discussed. Details of the plan were first reported by the New York Times.

CNN has confirmed that one of the proposals being discussed is the possibility of providing military training and arms to the Frontier Corps, which has had a mixed record in its efforts against militants in that remote region. It is not clear how far the proposal has moved through the Bush Administration. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report

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