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Musharraf starts civilian presidency
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13:41, November 30, 2007

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Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said yesterday he would end a state of emergency next month to restore normal government ahead of general elections in January.

"I'm fully determined that the emergency will be lifted on December 16," Musharraf said in an address to the nation on the day of his inauguration as president for a second five-year term. The constitution would also be restored, he said.

"God willing, the election should be held under the constitution in a free and transparent manner," he said, referring to the January 8 general election.

On Wednesday Musharraf quit as chief of the army, which brought him to power in a military coup in 1999.

The 64-year-old leader said the country would be stronger with him as a civilian leader and his successor, General Ashfaq Kayani, in charge of the military.

"This is a milestone in the transition of Pakistan to a complete essence of democracy," he said in a speech at the inauguration of his five-year term in office.

Washington sees stability in Pakistan as vital to its campaign against Al-Qaida and the fight against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistani army action against militants has sparked a suicide bombing campaign that has killed more than 400 people since July.

Analysts say Musharraf will enter rocky political waters after a parliamentary election on January 8 which is likely to install a legislature hostile enough to contemplate impeachment.

Musharraf said he welcomed the return from exile of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday as well as that of another old rival, Benazir Bhutto, last month. Musharraf deposed Sharif in 1999 and forced him abroad a year later. "I personally feel this is good for the political reconciliation I have spoken of," Musharraf said.

Sharif and Bhutto, also a former prime minister, say they may boycott the January polls, arguing the vote will not be free and fair if held under emergency powers. Most analysts expect them to take part, though Sharif's candidacy faces legal challenges.

Sharif said Musharraf's presidency was illegitimate and the Supreme Court judges he sacked should be restored and allowed to rule on his election victory while still a serving officer.

Source: China Daily

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