Islamabad, Nov 30: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf yesterday announced that the state of emergency and the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which he had imposed on November 3, would be lifted by December 16 provided that the country remains stable and peaceful.
In a televised address to the nation this evening after taking over as the civilian President, Musharraf said that the key elements for a progressive and democratic Pakistan were "national consensus, political reconciliation and good governance".
Given these three parameters, Musharraf further said that Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and their respective parties, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) "have been given a level-playing field, and the January 8, 2008 elections should be held as per the norms announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan."
He said that with the country progressing on the democratic path, as per the established guidelines, any attempt to destabilise the process would not be allowed.
He further appealed to all sections of the society, including political parties, not to think or talk in terms of boycotting the January elections, as this would not benefit Pakistan or its people.
Earlier, at the beginning of his address, Musharraf said that he was glad to become a civilian President and added: "I have maintained and honoured my promise to the people of Pakistan."
He said that he had been pursuing a 3-step agenda, which could be divided into three phases.
The first phase was from 1999 to 2002.
He said during this phase, his objective was to take Pakistan out of a major crisis, for which he had to occupy four positions-Chief of Army Staff, Chairman of Joint Chief of Staffs, Chief Executive and Chief Martial law administrator.
This centralised authority, he said, ran the government, enabling Pakistan to come out of the crises and march towards progress and democratic way of life.
He said that the second phase-from 2002 to 2007-focussed on facilitating progress for the people. This meant empowerment-financial, administrative and political empowerment.
"We also used this period to promote the empowerment of women, which meant providing seats in local councils, assemblies, and National Assembly for women, and providing them the right to contest elections against their male counterparts. I am proud to say today there is 30 percent representation of woman in local councils and 22 percent in the National Assembly.
Musharraf also said during this period when he occupied two positions- President and the Army Chief, the voting age for the youth of the country was reduced from 21 to 18, elections were held for the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies, encouragement was given for media freedom and private television channels were introduced in dozens.
He said that in the third phase, from 2007 onwards, the government planned for a presidential election, and "there was also the question of my uniform."
"I have been saying for the last three months that I will follow the Constitution to the letter. With great sadness that I say this process was derailed for a well thought out conspiracy," he said.
"My election as President (Oct 6, 2007), which I had won by 57 percent votes was sought to be derecognised. It was at this time also that terrorism and insurgency raised its ugly head in various parts of Pakistan, particularly in NWFP and SWAT region. The media also played its role in fanning these flames of instability. Given all these circumstances, terrorism, and political uncertainty, it was an impossible situation that required something like an emergency," Musharraf said in his address to the nation.
"After consultation with experts, including business leaders, politicians, and legal experts, I was forced to take the decision under compulsion to announce an emergency on November 3 this year," he said.
"I am proud to say now that the path to democracy is back on rail. My election as President is certified as per law and the constitution," he added.
Praising the role of Pakistan army, Musharraf said that he was proud to be a part of the institution for the last 46 years, and he was also proud to be the Army Chief for last 9 years, which he added "was made possible by the God's grace and my well wishers."
He particularly praised the new Army Chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani.
He said that General Kiyani is a talented and professional soldier who would take the Pakistan army and its glorious traditions to much greater heights.
The army, he said, has played a significant role in ensuring progress of the nation. This he said was reflected in the ongoing successful operations against insurgents and terrorists in the SWAT and NWFP areas.
"Whatever I have done and what I will do will always be determined by what benefits Pakistan," he concluded.