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Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK


World: South Asia

Musharraf promises 'true democracy'

General Musharraf addressed the nation on television

Pakistan's new military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has said he has no intention of remaining in power for longer than it takes to establish what he called 'true democracy' in the country.

However, he gave no specific date for elections.

Pakistan in crisis
In an address which lasted 15 minutes, Gen Musharraf said that the previous elected government had been "merely a label of democracy, not the essence of it".

"I shall not allow the people to be taken back to the evil of sham democracy," he said.


The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones: "The speech was short on specific commitments"
The general announced a six-member National Security Council of army officers and experts in legal, foreign and national affairs. He also announced a small advisory council and promised a free press and religious tolerance.

Troop withdrawal

He said that Pakistan would exercise nuclear restraint and went on to announce a unilateral military de-escalation in the border dispute with India over Kashmir.

He pledged "to withdraw all troops sent to the area in the recent past".

Gen Musharraf called on India "to end repression of Kashmiris".

Gen Musharraf set out seven key points to be tackled by his military administration:

  • the improvement of national morals
  • the restoration of national cohesion
  • reviving the economy
  • strengthening law and order
  • depoliticising state institutions
  • devolving power to the regions
  • bringing about "swift and across the board accountability".

Criticism


[ image:  ]
On Saturday,the European Union joined the United States in threatening to cut off aid if the army did not present a timetable for a return to democracy.

But the EU summit in Finland did not call for the restoration of the ousted Sharif government.

Mr Sharif remains in "protective custody" at an undisclosed location.

But several cabinet ministers who were detained earlier are no longer under house arrest.

Several ministers, including Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and Interior Minister Shujaat Hussain, answered their phones for the first time since the army takeover, but declined to comment, Reuters news agency reported.

Support

Contrary to the broad international condemnation of the military's takeover, Saudi Arabia has voiced its support for the coup.


BBC's Lindsay Marnoch: It's turning out to be a vey civilised coup
The Saudi Defence Minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz, said his government had great confidence in the Pakistani armed forces, and in their capacity to protect all Pakistanis.

He said Saudi Arabia - which provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan - hoped for calm and stability there.


[ image: Nawaz Sharif's whereabouts are still unknown]
Nawaz Sharif's whereabouts are still unknown
The UK has joined Canada in calling for Pakistan's suspension from the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth foreign ministers will debate the issue at a special meeting in London on Monday.

In Pakistan, the military has been tightening its grip on power. Eighteen diplomats appointed by Mr Sharif have been asked to resign, and a number of senior bureaucrats and officials have been detained.

In many cases, their offices have been sealed so that the army can investigate their dealings at a later stage, correspondents say.

Acounts frozen

Gen Musharraf assumed the position of chief executive after the declaration of a state of emergency.

He has also suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament.

The emergency declaration, or Provisional Constitution Order No 1, makes it clear that President Rafiq Tarar is now subordinate to the general.

The military has frozen the bank accounts of Mr Sharif, other senior politicians, parliamentarians, political advisers and their spouses.

In another development, the central State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has begun consultations with revenue officials and federal investigators to draw up a target list of prominent loan and tax defaulters.

Moves to expose corrupt financial dealings are likely to attact public support.

One state-run bank, United Bank Ltd, placed a large announcement in the country's press on Saturday headlined: "Calling Loan Defaulters! Adjust Your Loans Honourably".

Other related stories:

  • UK tells Pakistan to expect suspension
  • Spotlight on Pakistan's Taleban connection
  • Pakistan declares state of emergency
  • Text of Musharraf's declaration
  • 'Plot to kill' coup leader
  • Politician tells of house arrest
  • Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory





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