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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pakistan's Musharraf vows no 'trouble' after elections
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pledged Tuesday to cooperate with whoever wins January's crucial general elections, saying that he was not a "trouble creator."
Opposition leaders and former premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have accused Musharraf of wanting to rig the polls in favour of parties that back him, although both have declined to boycott the elections.
But Musharraf, who has promised to lift a five-week-old state of emergency on Saturday, told Al-Jazeera's English channel that he was willing to work with the victors of the crunch polls on January 8.
"I will try to work with anyone who comes to power after the elections," Musharraf said in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
"I interact with people quite well, I am not such a trouble creator."
The aftermath of the elections promises to be chaotic, with Musharraf needing a two-thirds majority to indemnify himself for suspending the constitution under the November 3 declaration of emergency rule.
Although both Bhutto and Sharif are currently barred from serving a third term in office, neither has shown much inclination to let their parties cooperate with him after the elections.
After flying back to Islamabad from Dubai, Bhutto on Tuesday hailed Sharif for agreeing not to boycott the election, saying that the presence of the country's big two parties would force a fair poll.
"Nawaz Sharif has taken a correct decision that his party should participate in the election," Bhutto told reporters, following Sharif's announcement at the weekend that it would contest the polls.
"When the two big parties participate, the government will be compelled to hold fair elections. It will strengthen democracy," added Bhutto.
Bhutto said late last month that her Pakistan People's Party would also take part. She has however stepped back from earlier calls for Musharraf to quit.
Sharif has called for an end to Musharraf's rule, which began on the day more than eight years ago when the former army chief toppled him in a bloodless coup.
Bhutto and Sharif have both returned from years in exile within the past two months as the nuclear-armed Islamic republic's political scene undergoes dizzying change.
But the former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid party said on Monday that it welcomed Sharif's participation because it would give the elections legitimacy.
Fears of a boycott that would draw global criticism of the vote had haunted Musharraf and his loyalist party, created in 2002 to contest elections under his banner after poaching most of its members from Sharif.
International pressure has already forced Musharraf to quit as army chief late last month, but he told Al-Jazeera that as a civilian president he would keep a close relationship with the military.
"My relationship with army is not direct, obviously. There is protocol obviously, there is the chief of army staff," he said.
"However 46 years of association does not get washed off, they will remember me, I will remember them for quite some time to come," he said.
Meanwhile Pakistan's main alliance of Islamist parties was near collapse Tuesday after cancelling a last-ditch meeting to resolve differences over a possible election boycott, party officials said.
The alliance -- the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) or United Action Front -- was formed in 2002 and won control of North West Frontier Province on the back of fierce anti-US sentiment over the toppling of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
"It is an alliance by name only," the alliance's chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, told Geo television.

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