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Musharraf to Take Oath as Civilian President Thurs


Musharraf to Take Oath as Civilian President Thursday

Senior Pakistani officials say President Pervez Musharraf will resign as army chief and take the oath of office as a civilian president Thursday. Mr. Musharraf's spokesman Rashid Qureshi made the statement to two news agencies (BBC and AFP) Monday.

The president's army spokesman, Major General Wahid Arshad made the same statement to Associated Press Television News.

Officials made similar predictions last week, saying General Musharraf would step down as army chief as few days ago.

President Musharraf has been under intense international and domestic pressure to give up his military role.

Also Monday, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif registered to run in parliamentary elections set for January 8.

Hours before filing his papers in Lahore, Mr. Sharif vowed that he would never be a part of any coalition government serving under Mr. Musharraf.

On Sunday, former prime minister Sharif flew into Lahore from Saudi Arabia, where he spent the past seven years in exile.

His rival, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, filed her nomination papers for the election on Sunday.

Mr. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League and Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party are both part of an opposition coalition that is considering a boycott of the January elections, if emergency rule is not lifted beforehand.

Speaking to a large, enthusiastic crowd at the airport, Mr. Sharif said he returned home to save the country, denouncing the state of emergency imposed by General Musharraf as an obstacle to free elections.

Mr. Sharif said democracy must be restored. He was Pakistan's last elected civilian leader before General Musharraf took power in a coup in 1999. The ousted prime minister was tried, convicted and exiled.

He attempted to return to Pakistan in September, but was deported within hours. This time, government officials say Mr. Sharif will be allowed to remain.

ENDS

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