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Pakistan Court Orders Musharraf to Step Down as Military Chief, Take Oath of Office by Dec. 1

Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered President Pervez Musharraf to step down as military chief and take the oath of office by December 1.

The court, which is stacked with judges appointed by General Musharraf, Friday also declared that the November 3 imposition of a state of emergency and suspension of the constitution were legal.

Pakistan's attorney general Malik Mohammed Qayyum says President Musharraf will take the oath of office early next week. The Supreme Court dismissed the final legal challenge to General Musharraf's October reelection victory on Thursday.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders are planning their strategy for the upcoming January 8 parliamentary elections, with exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif set to return to Pakistan within days.

A spokesman for Mr. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party, Ahsan Iqbal, says it is not clear whether the former prime minister will return before Monday's registration deadline for January's elections. He added that Mr. Sharif held a "farewell meeting" today with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, where he has lived in exile.

Mr. Sharif has been an outspoken critic of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule, urging Pakistanis to rise up against the president.

General Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif in 1999 in a military coup. Mr. Sharif was sentenced to life in prison, but General Musharraf allowed him to go into exile under a deal in which he promised to stay out of Pakistan for 10 years.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her opposition Pakistan People's Party are still considering whether to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In other news, a private television station ordered off the air November 3 has been allowed to resume broadcasting. ARY One television resumed operations Thursday night.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.