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Musharraf: Parliamentary Elections Should Be Before January 9

  • VOA News

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says parliamentary elections should be held before January ninth, but he cannot give a date for the end of emergency rule.

General Musharraf said on Sunday that Pakistan's national and provincial assemblies will be dissolved in the coming days on November 15th and 20th.

He also vowed to take the oath of office as a civilian president and give up his military position. But he said he cannot do so until the courts finish hearing challenges to his recent re-election.

General Musharraf has dismantled the Supreme Court and accused ousted chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry of corruption. Judges on newly formed courts had to take an oath to the provisional constitution, and they are considered to be sympathetic to General Musharraf.

The Pakistani leader said emergency rule will ensure elections are free and fair.

Authorities have arrested thousands of demonstrators who have been protesting emergency rule, many of them activists for opposition political parties. Earlier today, General Musharraf gave army courts the power to try civilians on a wide range of charges.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto arrived in Lahore on Sunday ahead of Tuesday's planned protest march from the city to Islamabad. Ms. Bhutto told reporters that General Musharraf's announcement of elections is a "first positive step."

The demonstration is aimed at increasing pressure on General Musharraf to give up his army chief post, hold elections as scheduled in January, and lift the emergency rule.

Independent news broadcasts were taken off the air in Pakistan under the state of emergency, and some newspapers have been censored. Pakistani authorities also ordered three British journalists to leave the country after their newspaper ("The Daily Telegraph") used strong language in referring to General Musharraf.
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