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Pakistan poll on Jan 8, says Musharraf

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says the army will not be called out during the polls unlike in the past.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2007 11:41 IST

President Pervez Musharraf on Sunday said Pakistan's general election will be held on January 8 and the army will not be called out during the polls unlike in the past.

"Inshallah, the general election in the country would be held on January 8," he told a farewell dinner for members of the outgoing assembly of Sindh province at the Chief Minister's House here.

He said he would recommend to the Election Commission that the polls should be held on that date. Earlier, in a television interview aired on state-run PTV, Musharraf said unlike in the past, the army would not be called out during the polls and the situation would be handled by police and civil authorities.

"My concern is to have free, fair and transparent elections, with better law and order," he said. Speaking at another function in Karachi, Musharraf also stepped up the attack on opposition parties that have threatened to boycott the general election, saying they were fleeing from the polls as they had realised they could not win.

Though Musharraf 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 imposed by the military ruler on November 3.

"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.

Bhutto today reiterated that she wanted Musharraf to quit as president and army chief to facilitate free and fair polls.
She also wanted the caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro, formed on November 16 after the dissolution of the National Assembly, to be "reshuffled".

The assemblies of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan provinces were dissolved today and caretaker governments will be formed tomorrow. North West Frontier Province's assembly was dissolved and a caretaker set-up formed there last month.

The National Assembly or lower house of parliament was dissolved on November 15 after it completed its five-year tenure.

Despite intense pressure from opposition parties and the world community, particularly the US, Musharraf has not set a date for ending the emergency he imposed on November 3 or for doffing his military uniform.

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.

He also said the emergency was not meant to rig elections but to make sure that they are held in a peaceful manner. "We are facing the threat of terrorism. We are into the process of elections and this process must go unhindered," he said.

To ensure transparency in the polls, the rules had been changed to ensure that the results are announced immediately after the counting of votes at the polling stations, he said.

First Published: Nov 19, 2007 01:32 IST