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Pak to be fortress of democracy: Musharraf

world Updated: Mar 23, 2007 14:47 IST
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President Pervez Musharraf pledged on Friday to make Pakistan an "impregnable fortress of democracy" amid a crisis over his removal of the country's most senior judge.

Military ruler Musharraf made the comment in a message marking Pakistan Day, which celebrates a resolution signed in 1940 to create a separate homeland for Muslims on the Indian subcontinent.

"We will inshallah (God willing) make Pakistan an impregnable fortress of democracy, peace, progress and attain our rightful place in the comity of nations," he said in the message carried by the official Associated Press of Pakistan.

The general, a key US ally in the "war on terror", added that for Pakistan in recent years "the problems have indeed been many as well as complex" but said that it had managed to overcome them.

The president oversaw an armed forces parade at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad involving military jets, including the new JF-17 fighter jointly developed with China, helicopters, parachutists and soldiers.

A nuclear-capable cruise missile tested by Pakistan on Thursday was also displayed.

Musharraf, who also heads the country's powerful army, faces the biggest threat to his eight years in power as a result of his suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 9.

Lawyers and opposition parties have since held nationwide protests, claiming that Musharraf wants to weaken the judiciary ahead of potentially controversial presidential and parliamentary elections expected later this year.

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto called on the United States in an opinion peace in the Washington Post Monday to push Musharraf to restore democracy, saying it was vital in rooting out terrorism.

Musharraf ousted a civilian government in a bloodless coup in 1999. He held general elections in 2002 but reneged on his promise to shed his military role in December 2004.

He changed the constitution with the backing of parliament, allowing him to hold the position of the president as well as chief of the army until 2007.