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MARTIAL RULE TO END Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is reported to lift the emergency rule in mid-December (AFP)
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will lift emergency rule and restore the suspended constitution on December 15, a day earlier than planned, Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum said on Saturday.
Musharraf imposed the emergency on November 3 -- and was internationally condemned for it -- suspended the constitution and purged the Supreme Court to fend off challenges to his re-election, which new hand-picked judges have since rubber-stamped.
It was not immediately clear why Musharraf had decided to end the emergency a day early, though some opponents had been toying with the idea of demanding he bring forward the date to avoid a boycott of a January 8 general election.
"It will be on the 15th," Qayyum said by telephone, adding he did not know why. "Everybody says the emergency must be lifted, so earlier the better."
"Maybe it's because December 16 is a Sunday."
Musharraf's spokesman said he did not know if the date had been brought forward.
Opposition parties failed on Friday to agree on the terms of an ultimatum to set Musharraf to ensure they take part in next month's election, leaving the prospect of a broad-based boycott increasingly unlikely.
Former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto failed to agree on whether to insist that the judges Musharraf sacked be restored to their positions before the election, and whether to issue a deadline for 13 demands they did agree on.
Those demands include ensuring that a neutral caretaker government oversees the poll and the reconstitution of the election commission.
Sharif, who is calling for the judges to be reinstated before the election, has been barred from running because of past criminal convictions he says were politically motivated.
A boycott by the two main opposition parties and smaller allies would deprive the vote of credibility and prolong instability that has raised concern about the nuclear-armed United States ally and its efforts to fight growing Islamist militancy.
Bhutto has filed her nomination papers for the election, arguing a boycott would leave the field open for a walkover by Musharraf's allies and says she reserves the right to protest after the vote if she deems it was rigged.
Bhutto, who is on a private trip to Dubai to visit her family, says the next parliament should decide whether to reinstate the deposed judges, several of whom including former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, remain under house arrest.
However, a Sharif party official said the two opposition leaders would meet again next week to continue consultations.
US officials, keen to see stability and a moderate government focus on battling al Qaeda and pro-Taliban militants, have encouraged all parties to take part in the vote, and analysts expect both the main opposition parties will ultimately take part.
Violence flared in a remote village in the southwestern province of Baluchistan before dawn, when gunmen attacked an office of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, shooting dead three party workers. Police said the attack could be due to tribal rivalries.
Two supporters of Bhutto's party were shot dead in a separate incident in the southern financial hub of Karachi last month. (REUTERS)
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