The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Polls under emergency:Musharraf
- Promise ‘fulfilled’ minus date

Islamabad, Nov. 11: President Pervez Musharraf today said Pakistan would go to polls in the first week of January but under a state of emergency he imposed about a week ago.

“The national and provincial assemblies will be dissolved on completion of their five-year tenure on November 15 and November 20, respectively, followed by parliamentary elections in the first week of January,” he told a news conference in capital Islamabad.

“This sets aside rumours and aspersions about my intentions,” he said without announcing an exact date for the elections and lifting of emergency.

“I always said that I will fulfil my promise,” he said but added that emergency would remain in place.

The army chief also said he would quit the military and be sworn in as a civilian President as soon as the Supreme Court struck down challenges to his October 6 re-election.

The court had allowed the government to go ahead with the election, which Musharraf won overwhelmingly, but declared that the notification would not be announced till a decision was reached on two petitions challenging his re-election and candidature.

“I wish I could give the date of my own oath-taking as the civilian President,” he said, adding that it would have been on November 15 had the case not been sub judice.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, had earlier informed the court that he would step down as army chief before taking oath.

The President, under pressure from the West to put Pakistan back on a path to democracy, said the polls would be followed by transfer of power to elected governments at the centre and provinces.

But he declined to say when the statute would be restored and the emergency lifted.

He said the emergency was needed to ensure peace in Pakistan. “It (emergency) will also ensure fair and transparent elections because we are not going to interfere in the process of the elections,” he said.

He said he expected the politicians and activists detained over the past week to be freed to take part in the elections although no one would be allowed to “create anarchy in the name of democracy”.

The news conference came a day after the government amended the Pakistan Army Act to allow court martial of civilians on charges ranging from treason, sedition and attack on army personnel.

When told the amendment had created the impression that it was aimed at those who oppose him, Musharraf said: “The act has been amended to take effective legal action against terrorism.”

Pakistan, he added, would be exposed to serious dangers if “we fail to crush terrorism, extremism and militancy”.

He said military operations in the northern Swat valley against pro-Taliban militants and the troubled tribal regions would continue till the government defeats terrorism.

The general avoided a clear reply when asked if former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was an ally or an opponent.

“I want to hold free and fair elections and am going to be absolutely above board in order to provide equal opportunity to all political parties to contest the elections,” Musharraf, who has been engaged with Bhutto in negotiations for a possible power-share deal said.

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