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Pakistan's Musharraf Promises to Lift Emergency Rule December 16th

  • VOA News

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he "fully intends" to lift emergency rule on December 16th and restore Pakistan's constitution before January parliamentary elections.

Mr. Musharraf made the announcement in a speech to the nation Thursday, shortly after being sworn in for a new five-year term as a civilian president.

The Pakistani leader defended his decision to impose the state of emergency on November third, saying it was necessary to curb a meddling judiciary and beat back Islamist militants. He also promised to hold the elections on time and called on all parties to participate in the polls.

The White House has welcomed the move. Spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday that once emergency rule is lifted, the country will be set to hold the vote.

But Pakistan's main opposition leaders are divided over participation in the polls, with Benazir Bhutto saying her party will take part and Nawaz Sharif vowing to boycott the ballot.

In his speech, President Musharraf also said the democratic process was in full swing, with both Mr. Sharif and Ms. Bhutto given a level playing field.

He noted successes during his rule, including bringing Pakistan out of an economic crisis, empowering women, and giving independence to the media.

Mr. Musharraf took the oath of office at the presidential palace in Islamabad a day after stepping down as military chief.

Meanwhile, nearly 200 lawyers protested the inauguration, clashing with police in the eastern city of Lahore.

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