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Bhutto's husband rejects Musharraf election pledge

world Updated: Nov 12, 2007 04:09 IST

The husband of former premier Benazir Bhutto on Sunday rejected President Pervez Musharraf's pledge to hold general elections by January 9 as a stalling tactic.

Asif Ali Zardari said Musharraf made the announcement to deflect pressure mounting over his decision to impose a state of emergency, rather than an attempt to solve the political crisis gripping the nation.

"Musharraf's pledge is nothing more than a tactic to gain time and deflect domestic and international pressure on him to lift the emergency and restore the constitution," he told AFP by telephone from Dubai.

Zardari, a senior figure in Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, said free and fair elections were "inconceivable under emergency rule imposed by Musharraf which was in fact martial law."

Zardari, released in 2004 after eight years in prison in Pakistan without a conviction, also demanded military ruler Musharraf quit his army post.

Musharraf promised today that Pakistan would hold elections by January 9 but indicated the state of emergency he imposed a week ago would stay in place until then.

The new timetable effectively brings the election process back to what it was before emergency rule, and meets a key demand of the beleaguered leader's critics at home and abroad.

Bhutto herself earlier described the announcement as a "positive step" but said the state of emergency must be lifted and that there were many outstanding issues to be resolved.