ISLAMABAD, Nov 8 (Reuters) Pakistani national elections will take place before February 15, President Pervez Musharraf said today, after Western allies and his political opponents had demanded polls be held on time.
Pakistan had been scheduled to hold elections by mid-January until the military ruler declared emergency rule on Saturday and suspended the constitution to the horror of the international community.
''We are looking at a date where we can dissolve all the assemblies simultaneously and hold the election simultaneously for the national assembly and four provincial assemblies,'' Musharraf told official media after chairing a meeting of the National Security Council.
''Having calculated all this, we must hold elections before 15th of February 2008,'' he added. ''I have been saying for the last few months that elections will be held on schedule. There is no doubt in my mind that elections should be held on time as soon as possible.'' ''It was my commitment and I am fulfilling it.'' Musharraf's announcement came just hours after US President George W Bush called him personally for the first time since he imposed emergency rule, urging him to hold elections and quit as army chief.
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party plans to hold a public meeting tomorrow in Rawalpindi, next to the capital Islamabad, to protest over emergency rule.
Bhutto has threatened a mass motorcade from Lahore to the capital on November 13 unless Musharraf quits as army chief.
The United States had hoped Bhutto would share power with Musharraf after the elections, but imposition of the emergency left US policy towards Pakistan in disarray. Musharraf has been a valued asset in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
REUTERS MS RN1747