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The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad
"There has been criticism from all sides of the political divide"
 real 56k

Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Musharraf 'forced out' president
Tarar and Musharraf
Rafiq Tarar and Musharraf: Not a smooth changeover
Pakistan's ousted president, Rafiq Tarar, has indicated that he did not step down voluntarily but was dismissed by the country's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

The general replaced Mr Tarar as the country's head of state on Wednesday, 20 months after he came to power in a bloodless military coup.

It is a national tragedy

Opposition leader Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan
Several Pakistani opposition parties have reacted strongly to General Musharraf's decision to make himself president, saying the move lacked constitutional, legal and moral backing.

The United States and other western countries have also denounced the move, although neighbouring India's reaction has been noticeably more circumspect.

General Musharraf took the oath of office under the provisional constitutional order introduced after he came to power in a military coup in October 1999.

Musharraf's rule
October 1999 - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ousted in military coup

April 2000 - Sharif gets two life sentences for terrorism and hijacking

May 2000 - Musharraf agrees to hold elections by October 2002

December 2000 - Sharif released and exiled to Saudi Arabia

May 2001 - Musharraf accepts Indian invitation to summit
Hours later, former President Rafiq Tarar gave his own version of the events, dispelling any notion of a smooth changeover.

In a statement from his home town, Lahore, Mr Tarar said he was formally informed of General Musharraf's decision a few days ago.

He was told the move was necessary to allow the general to implement his administration's agenda and to achieve "national objectives".

Observers believe that Mr Tarar's comments imply that he was forced out of office after he refused to step down voluntarily.

Sharp reaction

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas says that despite the fact that few opposition politicians in Pakistan have any sympathy for the ousted president, reaction has been strong.

Parties across the political spectrum have criticised General Musharraf's action in assuming the presidency, saying they seriously doubt that democracy would be restored in the country.

Opposition activists burn their scarves to protest in Lahore
The opposition accuse General Musharraf of destroying democracy
"It is a national tragedy," Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, chief of the multi-party Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, said.

Reza Rabbani, a leader of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, said: "The dictator has come up with his real face. His intention is to cling to power."

US furious

The United States also added its sharp criticism to the move, which came hours after Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Reports said Mr Sattar assured Mr Powell that democracy would soon be restored in Pakistan.

Generals who became president
1960 - General Ayyub Khan
1969 - General Yahya Khan
1978 - General Zia ul-Haq
The Pakistani foreign minister told journalists later that he had no idea that General Musharraf was planning to take-over as president.

"I was informed last evening," he said.

Correspondents say General Musharraf's move is a step to acquire greater legitimacy and stronger negotiating power ahead of his first meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in India next month.

The Indian Government has said it will treat General Musharraf as a head of state, a statement taken to mean Delhi implicitly recognises him as Pakistan president.

The army has ruled Pakistan for nearly half of its turbulent history, since it was carved out of British India in 1947.

The president enjoys mainly ceremonial powers, but it is expected that the military-led government will expand his role after General Musharraf steps into it.

Foreign governments have pressed the general for an early return to civilian rule, but his military administration has won international support for its efforts to set the nation's finances in order.

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See also:

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Musharraf sworn in as president
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Analysis: Musharraf consolidates power
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Date set for India-Pakistan summit
25 Mar 01 | South Asia
Musharraf firm on election timetable
24 May 01 | South Asia
Timeline: Pakistan
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
30 Apr 01 | South Asia
Musharraf bans democracy rally
28 May 01 | South Asia
Musharraf optimistic over talks
07 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
24 Aug 00 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Troubled relations
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