Soomro takes over as caretaker PM, Bhutto says not acceptable

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Islamabad, Nov 16 (UNI) Almost two weeks after imposing emergency in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf today sworn-in Senate Chairman Muhammadmian Soomro as the Caretaker Prime Minister, claiming credit for the ''smoothest transition of power ever'' in the country even as Pakistan People's Party Chief Benazir Bhutto dismissed the move as ''not acceptable''.

Mr Soomro was administered the oath of office at the head of a 24-member cabinet, mostly comprising of technocrats, to oversee the conduct of parliamentary elections in January 2008.

Gen Musharraf had picked up Mr Soomro last night for the top slot.

He had already announced that elections would be held before January 9 under state of emergency that the military ruler imposed on November 3.

''Today we are creating a history because never has Pakistan seen such a smooth transition of government,'' the President said in an unusual address after the oath taking ceremony.

''I take pride in the fact that being a man in uniform I introduced essence of democracy,'' said Gen Musharraf, who has announced to shed his uniform before taking oath for the second term in presidency.

However, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was today freed after three days in detention, rejected the caretaker government as ''not acceptable''.

''This caretaker government is extension of Pakistan Muslim League(Q) and is not acceptable to us,'' she told a press conference in Lahore after she was freed from house arrest.

Ms Bhutto said she was in contact with former premier Nawaz Sharif and other top political leaders, adding that ''we are mobilising public opinion against dictatorship.'' The Pakistan People's Party chief said time was ripe to mount pressure on military Gen Musharraf for holding free and fair elections, which, she added, were not possible under emergency, Chief of Army Staff and present election commission.

She demanded setting up of a catetaker government of ''national consensus'' to supervise elections.

Ms Bhutto was detained on Tuesday ahead of a pro-democracy rally and was detained at PPP leader Latif Khosa's residence in Lahore.

Government of Punjab today withdrew the seven-day detention order against the Pakistan People's Party chief.

Geo TV reported that orders have also been issued to free human rights activist Asma Jehangir.

The 24-member cabinet consisted of several prominent faces, including former foreign secretary Inamul Haq, rights activist Ansar Burney, Barrister Shahida Jamil, Dr Salman Shah, Tridev Rai, Nisar Memon, Lala Nisar Muhammad Khan, Sarfaraz Abbas, Saleem Abbas Jilani, renowned lawyer Afzal Haider and Hamid Nawaz Khan.

The oath taking ceremony was attended by former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, members of his cabinet, Speaker National Assembly Chaudhry Amir Hussain, governors and provincial chief ministers, services chiefs, senators, federal secretaries, political leaders, diplomats and high civil and military officials.


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