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Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Musharraf dismisses rigging charge
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf said he had been given a clear mandate
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has said claims that huge numbers of people were forced to vote for him during Tuesday's referendum were "ridiculous".

General Musharraf said he had been determined to ensure the referendum was fair and impartial.

Pakistanis queue to vote in referendum
The opposition says there were massive irregularities
According to official figures, 98% of voters said he should stay in power.

Opposition groups and human rights organisations have spoken of serious abuses and irregularities in the referendum, which produced a record turnout.

But General Musharraf told reporters in Islamabad that he had been given a heavy mandate by the people of Pakistan in the referendum to continue his reforms.

'No force'

The general denied reports there had been widespread instances of multiple voting, ballot stuffing, and people being forced to vote.

Musharraf supporters celebrate referendum result
Official figures say 98% voted for the general

He said there were some incidents, but it was ridiculous to think hundreds of thousands had been dragged into vote.

He would not commit himself on whether the referendum decision would be ratified by parliament once elected in October.

The general said political parties would be allowed to contest elections, but the ban on outdoor rallies would continue until an unspecified period - possibly 60 days before the polls.

And even after elections, he made it clear he would be closely monitoring events.

President Musharraf said that to resolve any potential struggles between the president and prime minister, they were seriously considering a national security council to include the heads of the armed forces.

The council would, in his words, "have the power to check any misdoings of the government".

But critics say it will give too much power to the military.

War on terror

President Musharraf said he would continue to fight sectarian extremism and that his government had been creating nationwide anti-terrorism agencies.

He said it was possible small groups of al-Qaeda had been entering Pakistan from Afghanistan, but he denied reports of US special forces working in Pakistan's tribal areas, saying the US military personnel were only involved in communications.

General Musharraf repeated that if he was needed to stay on once his five year term was up, he would do so, but he added: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it".

See also:

03 May 02 | Media reports
Musharraf thanks 'silent majority'
02 May 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's referendum views
02 May 02 | South Asia
US cool on Musharraf vote
02 May 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
01 May 02 | South Asia
Musharraf wins huge backing
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