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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 08:32 GMT
Pakistan confirms early poll date
President Pervez Musharraf
Gen Musharraf has been under pressure to lift emergency
Pakistan will hold general elections on 8 January, 2008, the country's Chief Election Commissioner Qazi Muhammad Farooq has confirmed.

Elections to both the national and provincial assemblies will be held on that day, he said on state TV.

However, it is not clear if anyone other than supporters of President Musharraf will take part.

A fortnight ago, he imposed a state of emergency following growing opposition and unrest.

He has been under immense international pressure to lift the emergency and hold elections.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Islamabad says that some of the thousands of political activists who have been taken into custody in the last two weeks are now being released but many others remain in detention.

Senior members of the Pakistan People's Party led by Benazir Bhutto are meeting in Karachi on Tuesday to decide whether to boycott the elections.

Gen Musharraf continues to insist that fair elections can be held under the state of emergency.

But our correspondent says his critics at home and his friends abroad are united in their disagreement.

With the constitution suspended, opposition activists in detention and TV news channels taken off the air, the process, they insist, simply will not be credible.

The US has reiterated the need for President Pervez Musharraf to lift the state of emergency in the country.

White House spokesperson Dana Perino said President George W Bush has been also "urging" the release of people who have been detained in Pakistan.

'Transparent' elections

Mr Farooq said the election commission had completed all arrangements to conduct elections in a "free, transparent and impartial manner."

He said international observers would be allowed to visit polling stations and provided all facilities.

The commissioner called for calm during the process saying "those taking part in the election should tolerate each other".

Bhutto supporters in Lahore, 13 November 2007
Opposition parties say free and fair elections cannot be held under emergency

According to the schedule announced, nominations would be accepted between 21 November to 26 November.

The scrutiny of nomination papers would be held between 27 November to 3 December.

The final list of candidates would be published on 16 December.

The election commission has asked political parties to apply for election symbols.

Gen Musharraf, who has been under pressure from the US and opponents at home to drop the state of emergency before the elections are held, is on a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, White House spokesperson Dana Perino told reporters that the US "remained concerned that there has not been a lifting of the emergency order that he (Gen Musharraf) put in place a little over two weeks ago".

"There's going to be elections. We do not believe that elections can be free and fair if you're under a situation where the media is not allowed to report on the issues of the day and people aren't allowed to campaign," she said.

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