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The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones
"He will not compromise"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Musharraf pledges return to democracy
Pakistan military
The military takeover was challenged at the Supreme Court
Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has said he will abide by a court ruling to restore democracy within three years.

It is the first time the general has given a timetable for the return of civilian rule, since he overthrew the government of Nawaz Sharif last October.

Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the 12 October coup which brought General Musharraf to power was justified, but set a timetable for a return to democracy.

Pakistan in crisis

"We accept the Supreme Court verdict in the right spirit, it is a balanced judgement," General Musharraf told a news conference on Thursday.

In another first, the general said he would meet local politicians and try to "take them along with what we are doing".

Pakistan's 'sea of problems'

BBC Islamabad correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones says General Musharraf's commitment to elections within three years seems unequivocal.

Key dates
Oct 1999
Military takeover

Nov 1999
Sharif charged in hijack cas

Dec 1999
Economic plan outlined

Mar 2000
Local body elections announced

Apr 2000
Sharif given life sentence

In his news conference, General Musharraf said that when he had taken over in Pakistan, he had been faced by a sea of problems.

The country, he said, was an industrial graveyard, with looted banks, billions of dollars of debt, a shattered economy and corrupt institutions.

He repeatedly said that his focus is now on raising revenue so that the government can eliminate some of its $38bn worth of foreign debt and start spending money on development projects.

Paying taxes

General Musharraf said that while he remained in power he was determined to make people start paying taxes - less than one percent of the Pakistani population currently does.

Recently, shopkeepers in Pakistan held a well-supported three-day strike to protest about the proposed tax increases.

But General Musharraf said there is no going back on his tax proposals and, he said, a major tax survey in 13 cities would start on Saturday.

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See also:

13 May 00 | South Asia
Pakistan reacts to coup ruling
22 Nov 99 | South Asia
Military takeover challenged in court
11 Nov 99 | South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory
30 Nov 99 | South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny
25 May 00 | South Asia
Blow for Sharif lawyers
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