Pakistan election by mid-January - Attorney-General

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 5 (Reuters) The Pakistan government, under mounting pressure from Western allies after declaring emergency rule, has decided to hold a general election by mid-January, the government's top lawyer said today.

Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum said Pakistan's National and provincial assemblies will be dissolved in 10 days' time.

''It has been decided there would be no delay in the election and by November 15, these assemblies will be dissolved and the election will be held within the next 60 days,'' Qayyum told Reuters.

Pakistan's Western allies have sought reassurances that polls would go ahead as expected in January after President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution and imposed emergency rule on Saturday.

Musharraf cited spiralling militancy and hostile judges to justify Saturday's action, and slapped reporting curbs on the media in a bid to stop outrage spilling onto the streets amid Pakistan's biggest crisis since he took power in a 1999 coup.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said outstanding cases lying with the Supreme Court, including challenges to Musharraf's re-election by parliament last month while still army chief, need to be concluded.

''We don't want to disrupt the election process. We want a free election,'' Aziz said.

TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY The election is supposed to mark a transition to civilian-led democracy, and Musharraf, who took power in a coup eight years ago, vowed last month to quit the army and become a civilian president if he was given a second term.

Many Pakistanis believe Musharraf's main motive in declaring emergency rule was to pre-empt the possibility of the Supreme Court invalidating the general's election victory on October. 6.

Several Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, were dismissed on Saturday after refusing to go along with the switch to emergency rule, and they were being held under virtual house arrest.

A lawyers' movement launched protests against the government, and hundreds were detained by police after violent clashes in several of Pakistan's main cities.

REUTERS NC RK2110

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