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Musharraf rejects 'ultimatums'

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Musharraf gives no indication of lifting emergency declaration
  • Former cricket legend and opposition leader Imran Khan is jailed
  • Another opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, still under house arrest
  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte to meet with Musharraf this week
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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Rejecting international pressure, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, gave no indication he will lift his emergency declaration before upcoming parliamentary elections, telling reporters, "I don't take any ultimatums from anyone."

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been under pressure to lift a state of emergency.

He delivered that message in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, days before he is scheduled to talk with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad this weekend.

Musharraf also told AP that he expected to quit as chief of Pakistan's army by the end of the month, but added that rising Islamic militancy required him to stay in control of the nation.

Senior State Department officials told CNN that Negroponte will convey to Musharraf how seriously the United States views his imposition of emergency rule and will suggest he rescind it.

As the pressure mounted Wednesday, Imran Khan, a former Pakistani cricket captain who turned to politics, was jailed in Lahore after turning up at a student rally. Video Watch a report on Khan's arrest »

And opposition leader Benazir Bhutto remained under house arrest Wednesday.

Musharraf is also under pressure from the British Commonwealth, which has threatened to suspend Pakistan from the 53-nation alliance if he does not lift the emergency order by November 22.

Asked about that threat, Musharraf told the AP, "I don't take any ultimatums from anyone."

Asked what message he will deliver to Negroponte, Musharraf was vague.

"We'll talk," he said but noted that "we are not here to satisfy foreign concerns."

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"We would prefer to engage with [them] ... but basically my concern is Pakistan."

Negroponte is expected to arrive in Islamabad late Friday for talks Saturday and Sunday with Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and other Pakistani officials, State Department officials told CNN on Wednesday. Negroponte has also expressed a wish to meet Bhutto.

Lifting the emergency order is the main sticking point with the United States, Musharraf said, since he has announced the parliamentary elections will take place by January 9.

Another sticking point -- stepping down as Pakistan's military leader and taking the oath of presidency from his re-election in October as a civilian leader -- "will be resolved soon," he said.

Asked if he will remove his uniform by the end of the month, Musharraf said, "Yes, certainly," but then stepped back, saying it all depends on when the newly installed Supreme Court approves his election results.

"It's not legally possible [to step down as army chief], because the Supreme Court of Pakistan -- their judgment was that notification on the removal of my uniform cannot be issued," Musharraf said.

"So they have to examine that case ... and remove that bar denying the issue of notification by the government. And then I will take oath."

Some Pakistani officials have accused Musharraf of dragging his feet on appointing the remaining two justices needed to make the ruling on his election victory. Musharraf has vowed to step down as military leader once the court approves the election results.

A caretaker government is scheduled to take power Thursday, the same day the current parliament's mandate expires. Musharraf said he has consulted with opposition parties on forming the interim government, but he was vague on the details.

"We are looking into names [from opposition parties], but I don't want to commit at the moment," he said. "It will be done probably tomorrow."

He added, "We will make sure that the caretaker government contains people of stature, people of a neutral band and those that can perform government functions well."

Meanwhile, opposition leader Benazir Bhutto remained under house arrest Wednesday, while opposition leader Imran Khan was in a Lahore jail.

Khan, a former Pakistani cricket captain, was seized by police Wednesday after surfacing at a student rally at the University of Punjab in Lahore, police said. He was facing anti-terrorism charges, police sources said.

Khan, who heads the Movement for Justice Party, had been on the run after escaping from house arrest last week. He felt comfortable risking detention Wednesday because his efforts to instigate widespread protests against the November 3 emergency order had been successful, his spokesman said.

Bhutto was placed under house arrest in Lahore earlier this week ahead of a planned protest march to Islamabad.

Musharraf told the AP that such rallies -- like the Lahore-to-Islamabad march -- are outlawed under the emergency order for security reasons, but political speeches will be allowed.

"Public addresses have to be there. ... They can be dangerous, but some politicking has to be done, obviously," he said.

"[The] emergency is in fact meant to make sure that the elections are held in a peaceful manner," Musharraf said.

He also restated his invitation to allow foreign observers to "come and see the transparency of the election."

Musharraf questioned whether Bhutto's intentions to restore democracy in Pakistan are sincere, and he blamed all opposition figures for trying to "disturb law and order" in Pakistan. He said the opposition parties participated in elections when Pakistan was under a state of emergency from 1965 to 1985.

Asked about opposition parties' threats to boycott the election, Musharraf said, "They must not boycott, and I don't think they're going to boycott."

He pointed out that to ease people's concerns, he used police instead of the army to enforce the emergency order.

The opposition says Musharraf imposed the order to avoid an expected ruling from the previous Supreme Court that would have nullified his election victory. Nearly all of the court's justices have been sacked and replaced with judges willing to go along with the order, which suspends the constitution.

Musharraf hinted that part of his reasons for issuing the emergency order was, in fact, to remain in power.


He told the AP that Pakistani officials -- who he stressed were not "yes men" and were "blunt enough to tell me to my face the reality" -- advised him to take the necessary steps to remain in power for the sake of Pakistan's stability.

"All of them think, yes, indeed, that will lead the country to chaos if we do not handle the political environment correctly now with me remaining as the president," Musharraf said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Elise Labott and Mohsin Naqvi contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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