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Musharraf vows to lift emergency order

Pakistan's leader, newly sworn in, also promises elections Jan. 8.

Associated Press
Published November 30, 2007


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pervez Musharraf, newly sworn in as a civilian president and minus his trademark general's uniform, promised Thursday to lift the state of emergency by Dec. 16 and restore Pakistan's constitution ahead of parliamentary elections.

If he keeps his word, Musharraf will have addressed key demands of opposition parties as well as the United States, an important supporter increasingly worried that Pakistani political turmoil could weaken the government's resolve to confront Islamic militants.

Musharraf urged opposition parties to participate in the election and help strengthen democracy, returning to his usually forceful persona after blinking back tears Wednesday when he resigned as commander of Pakistan's military and ended a 46-year army career.

"This is a milestone in the transition of Pakistan to the complete essence of democracy," he told officials, diplomats and generals at his oath-taking ceremony in the presidential palace.

"Anyone who is talking of any boycotts should hear this out: Come hell or high water, elections will be held on Jan. 8. Nobody derails it."

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said her party, one of the country's two main opposition blocs, would compete in the election "under protest." She predicted the ballot would be rigged but said it would be more dangerous to leave the election to pro-Musharraf parties.

Reflecting the anger at Musharraf and political uncertainty that have undercut the president's domestic and international support, the other key opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, continued to urge a boycott as a way to attack the election's legitimacy.

A day after giving up the powerful post of military chief, Musharraf took the oath for a new five-year term as president, dapperly dressed in a long, dark tunic that contrasted with the medal-studded, khaki uniform he wore as a general.

Washington welcomed Musharraf's announcement on the timetable for lifting of the emergency.

"We hope that he follows through on that," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "I think you have to give President Musharraf some credit here, because while he made the decision to establish the emergency order - which we believed was a mistake, and we counseled against - he did take the step" to lift it.

[Last modified November 30, 2007, 01:38:19]

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