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Musharraf steps up attack on Opposition

Vowing to hold fair parliamentary polls, The Pak President slams "elements" who are talking of boycotting the polls.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2007 01:21 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Sunday stepped up the attack on opposition parties that have threatened to boycott the upcoming general election, saying they were fleeing from the polls as they had realised they could not win.

Vowing to hold transparent and fair parliamentary polls, he slammed "elements" who were talking of boycotting the polls.
Though he did not name anyone, his criticism was apparently aimed at former premier Benazir Bhutto, whose Pakistan People's Party has said it could boycott elections held under the emergency.

"They have resorted to agitational politics and (are) threatening to boycott the elections just to run away from the elections. But we will go into the elections and I think that (they) all will participate in the forthcoming elections," he said at a ceremony to inaugurate a flyover here.

Those talking of a boycott were in fact fleeing from the elections, he said. Musharraf also said the "code of conduct" framed for the media is in line with best international practices and the media has accepted it.

The code was necessary as TV channels were not "realising their responsibilities", he said. "I have no problem with the free media. In fact, I gave them this freedom despite 90 per cent opposition (within the government). I do not want them to praise me. But they should consider the interest of Pakistan.

Musharraf imposed strict curbs on the media after declaring an emergency on November 3. Two private TV channels -- including Geo News, Pakistan's most popular Urdu news channel, have been shut down after they refused to accept the code of conduct.

The Pakistan President said he had imposed emergency after careful consideration and comprehensive consultations with his colleagues.

"I talked to those who were bold enough to tell me the truth in may face. Then I took this decision in the best interest of Pakistan," he said.

His comments came a day after visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte asked the general to doff his uniform, end the emergency and release all political prisoners to facilitate free and fair polls.

Musharraf said he had no "ego problem". "I could have said thank you and walked away. But this was not the right approach, because I cannot see this country going down in front of me after so many achievements and an economic turnaround.

"At that time I felt that if I did not take action now, it will be too late and we will not be able to save the country. I can guarantee the people that whatever decision I will take I will keep Pakistan first," he said.

Pakistan is facing the grave problem of terrorism and extremism which can only be handled with "boldness and political unity". "I do not believe in defeatism and escapism and (I) face challenges. I have to take Pakistan forward to its real potential," Musharraf said.

Terrorism and extremism has given Pakistan a negative image, affecting its credit rating and forcing foreign investors to hold back investment, Musharraf pointed out.

Judicial activism coupled with extremism and terrorism had literally paralysed the government machinery and demoralised the law enforcing agencies, he remarked.

Pointing out that foreign militants dominated by Uzbek settlers were imposing their ideas on the local population in Swat, Dir, Malakand, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, and Lakki Marwat, Musharraf vowed to defeat these elements.