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Musharraf takes oath as civilian president

The Pak president is sworn in for second term, but this time as civilian leader a day after quitting as army chief.

world Updated: Nov 29, 2007 13:40 IST

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf was sworn in as president for a second term Thursday, but this time as a civilian and without his army uniform to protect him from massive pressure to end emergency rule.

Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, took the oath for another five years in office from the country's newly installed chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar at the presidential palace in Islamabad.

It came a day after he stepped down as chief of the powerful army under fierce international and domestic pressure for him to end eight years of turbulent military rule ahead of elections set for January 8.

"This is a milestone in the transition of Pakistan to a complete essence of democracy," Musharraf, 64, said in a speech after the solemn ceremony broadcast live on state television.

"I am grateful to the Pakistani nation for placing this confidence in me."

Musharraf vowed that the general elections will take place "come hell or high water," but rejected pressure to lift a state of emergency, saying he wanted democracy but "we will do it our way."

Wearing a traditional black tunic, Musharraf recited the oath in front of hundreds of dignitaries after a recitation from the Koran.

The guests included Musharraf's handpicked heir as army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, who looked on impassively.

The swearing-in came just hours after US President George W. Bush and his chief diplomat Condoleezza Rice welcomed his resignation from the army but urged him to lift emergency rule to pave the way for free and fair elections.

"In my judgment, in order to get Pakistan back on the road to democracy, he's got to suspend the emergency law before elections," Bush told CNN television in an interview.

But Bush praised Musharraf as "an absolute reliable partner in dealing with extremists and radicals" and hailed his decision to bow to international pressure and quit as army chief to end eight years of military rule.

"It is something that a lot of people doubted would ever happen. And he told me he would take off his uniform, and I appreciate that, that he kept his word," said the US president.

The United States has led international calls for Musharraf to end the state of emergency which he declared on November 3.

Dogar, the chief justice, was installed when Musharraf sacked most of Pakistan's top judges and suspended the constitution under the emergency order.

Critics say Musharraf imposed the emergency to rid the Supreme Court of hostile judges amid fears they would rule that his victory in a presidential election on October 6 was illegal.

Musharraf was set to address the nation on Thursday at 8:00 pm (1500 GMT). Officials played down speculation that he would lift the state of emergency during the speech.

Musharraf has said the emergency was a necessary response to a wave of Islamic militant attacks and a meddling judiciary.

The emergency has taken to a new level a political crisis that began when Musharraf in March first tried to sack the independent-minded former chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. He was finally removed on November 3.

Lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore said they would protest on Thursday against Musharraf's swearing in as president, the state of emergency and his treatment of the judiciary.

As civilian president, Musharraf will have the power to dismiss the government but will face increased opposition from former premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both of whom recently returned from exile.

Bhutto said on Wednesday that Musharraf had met one of her key demands, but warned: "We are not in a hurry to accept Pervez Musharraf as a civilian president."