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Old Thursday, September 20, 2007
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Default Pakistan election date announced

Pakistan election date announced

Pakistan is to hold its presidential election on 6 October, the Election Commission has announced.

The last day for filing nominations has been set for 27 September, commission spokesman Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad said.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf has said he will give up his post of army chief if he is re-elected for another term.

The Supreme Court still has to decide if he can stand for election in the indirect ballot while remaining army chief or even as a retired general.

Analysts say the general may wait for the Supreme Court verdict before he submits his nomination; or, if it looks like the court will rule against him, he may pre-empt the decision by taking emergency measures, the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says.

Pakistan's president is not elected by the people, but by a ballot of federal and provincial assemblies.

Growing opposition

Opposition parties have called for Gen Musharraf, who has faced mounting opposition to his rule throughout 2007, to seek re-election from a new parliament instead of the outgoing assemblies.

Some have also threatened to resign from the assembly if he does not quit his military role before a presidential vote.

US explores policy options

The government says it has enough seats to re-elect Gen Musharraf anyway.

"The election dates have been announced, God willing we will re-elect him, we have got the majority, we have got the strength," Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani was quoted by news agency AFP as saying.

On Monday, the Election Commission changed electoral rules that could help Gen Musharraf's re-election plans.

The commission said a constitutional rule that retiring state servants could not run for office until two years had elapsed did not apply to presidential candidates.

There had been growing opposition to controversial amendments - to the constitution and in parliament - allowing Gen Musharraf to be both president and army chief until November 2007.

Opposition parties say Gen Musharraf's decision to get himself re-elected in uniform is unconstitutional and undemocratic.

The Supreme Court is hearing six petitions - from political parties and lawyers - seeking to disqualify Gen Musharraf as a presidential candidate.

The six petitions also oppose Gen Musharraf's plan to seek re-election from the current parliament and provincial assemblies, saying there should be general elections first.

Previous promises

It is not the first time Gen Musharraf has said he will step down as army chief.

In 2002, he promised members of Pakistan's Islamic parties that he would resign as head of the army by 2004 in return for their support for a constitutional amendment legitimising his 1999 military takeover.

The opposition believed the verbal promise was also enshrined in the amendment, an issue disputed by Gen Musharraf's advisers.

Instead, Gen Musharraf succeeded in getting parliament to pass an act with a simple majority giving him a one-time exemption to stay on in office until November 2007.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto announced last week that she intends to return to Pakistan from exile on 18 October to contest parliamentary elections, which must be announced by mid-November and held by mid-January.

She was said to have been in negotiations with Gen Musharraf over a deal that would allow her a third term as prime minister in exchange for her support for his plan to be re-elected president, correspondents say.

Another former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, returned from exile earlier in September promising to challenge Gen Musharraf - but was deported within hours to Saudi Arabia.

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