Musharraf to lift emergency rule

Pakistan president announces December 16 date but ex-PM Sharif calls for polls boycott.

    Musharraf says Pakistan wants democracy, human rights and stability, "but we will do it our way" [AFP]

    Musharraf said he had "full resolve to lift the emergency and withdraw the PCO [provisional constitutional order] on December 16" because the situation in the country had improved since the emergency was declared.
     
    "In my view, the situation is improving, the democratic process is continuing and terrorism has been controlled," he said.
     
    Civilian president
     
    Musharraf was sworn in as a civilian president in Islamabad, the country's capital, earlier in the day.

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    The oath was taken at the Aiwan-e-Sadr presidential palace one day after Musharraf stepped down as the head of Pakistan's military.

    Wearing a dark traditional tunic, he pledged to uphold the constitution and to do his utmost to preserve and protect the nation.

    Abdul Hameed Dogar, the chief justice Musharraf hand-picked after purging the Supreme Court when he imposed emergency rule on November 3, administered the oath to Musharraf.

    In his first speech as civilian president, Musharraf said: "We want democracy, we want human rights, we want stability, but we will do it our way.
     
    "We understand our society, our environment, better than anyone in the West," he said.

    Musharraf also welcomed the return from exile of Benazir Bhutto and Sharif.

    He said: "Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are back. I personally feel this is good for the political reconciliation I have spoken of."
     
    Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder said Musharraf had extended an olive branch to Sharif and Bhutto.
     
    Boycott threat

    However, neither former prime ministers were present at the ceremony and Sharif said on Thursday that an alliance of opposition parties would boycott the elections in January and try to persuade others, including Benazir Bhutto, to join them.

     

    "We are boycotting these elections," Sharif told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore after a meeting of the All Parties Democratic Movement, which groups Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and other parties.

     

    "We will try to convince other political parties so that this boycott is effective," he said, adding they would call a meeting with leaders of other opposition groups including Bhutto's Pakistan People's party.

     
    Such a move would undercut Musharraf's effort to legitimise his rule through a democratic parliamentary ballot.

    On Wednesday, Bhutto said she was "not in a hurry to accept Pervez Musharraf as a civilian president".
     
    Sharif also said Musharraf's oath of office had no legitimacy and he demanded the reinstatement of judges sacked under the emergency.

    In the city of Lahore, about 250 lawyers in black suits clashed with police outside the city's main court.

    "We don't accept Musharraf even without his uniform. He has to go," said Malik Mohammad Arshad, a lawyer. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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