President Musharraf promises free, fair poll

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Washington, Dec 10: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has reiterated his commitment to ensure ''free and fair'' parliamentary elections next month even as the country's two major political parties failed to agree on their boycott.

In a CNN interview yesterday, President Musharraf, who relinquished his Army post last month, said the January 8 election would be ''transparent and free of fraud.'' According to an Islamabad report, former prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday said his faction, the Pakistan Muslim League-N will participate in the elections following former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's unwillingness to join the proposed boycott and present a joint front.

Ms Bhutto heads the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

President Musharraf also said he would lift the state of emergency on December 15. The state of emergency imposed on November 3, provoked loud protests abroad, particularly in the United States, forcing the President to review the decision.

He said the emergency would be lifted a day earlier than previously planned.

''The emergency will be finished on the December 15, I mean every word of it. I give commitments which I always follow and honour,'' President Musharraf said.

He hit out at the Opposition groups, accusing them of levelling baseless accusations for their own political purposes.

''This is a clear indication of their preparation for defeat. Now when they lose, they will have a good rationale, that it is all rigged, that this is all fraud. This is what they do always. In Pakistan, the loser always cries.

I think they should gracefully participate in the elections, and then gracefully accept defeat if any of them gets defeated. We will congratulate anyone who does win,'' Mr Musharraf added.


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