(Guardian) Gun battles raged in Pakistan's tribal belt yesterday as the political system was thrust into limbo after President Pervez Musharraf's controversial election victory on Saturday.
At least 50 militants and 20 soldiers were killed in fighting in North Waziristan , a mountainous area near the Afghan border where al- Qaida foot soldiers and leaders have taken refuge. Local media also reported that another 28 Pakistani troops were kidnapped in Waziristan at the weekend by militants who have held 215 troops hostage since August 30.
The Islamist threat was underscored by militants who vowed to kill the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto when she returns from exile in 10 days' time.
General Musharraf won 98% of the votes cast by an electoral college of both houses of parliament and provincial assemblies on Saturday, thanks to a boycott by opposition parties. The prime minister, Shaukat Aziz , termed it a "great victory for democracy".
But Gen Musharraf's second term is not guaranteed. First he must await the outcome of a supreme court legal challenge by a rival candidate that could overturn his victory. The hearing resumes on October 17 and a decision may take several weeks. Gen Musharraf has refused to rule out emergency rule if the verdict goes against him. "Let them come to their decision, then we will decide," he told reporters.