President Pervez Musharraf promised on Thursday to lift Pakistan's state of emergency on December 16, making a long-awaited gesture of reconciliation hours after being sworn in as a civilian leader.
Addressing the nation on state television, Musharraf said he would also restore the constitution that was suspended when he declared emergency rule on November 3.
"I have full resolve to lift the emergency and withdraw the PCO (provisional constitutional order) on December 16," Musharraf said.
He said the decision was being taken because the overall situation in the country had improved since the emergency was declared, with successes against militants and a democratic transition to January 8 elections underway. "But I hope no obstacles will be created to destabilise the process as was done in the past," he cautioned, saying opposition leaders and former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had been provided "a level playing field".
Musharraf's announcement came soon after he was sworn in as a civilian president for five more years in office.