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Pakistan President Amends Constitution; Prepares To Lift Emergency Rule


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made last-minute changes to the constitution on Friday, just a day before lifting the six-week-old state of emergency.

The president is scheduled to address the nation on Saturday, when top officials say he will restore constitutional rule and end the state of emergency.

Pakistan's attorney general, Malik Mohammed Qayyum, says the constitutional amendments deal with the forced retirement of judges who refused to accept emergency rule. They also address election procedures and scrapping a two-term limit for prime ministers.

Earlier, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif unveiled his platform for January 8 parliamentary elections. He called for the restoration of judges who were fired when President Musharraf imposed emergency rule and an end to military interference in politics.

Despite the president's pledge to restore constitutional rule, opposition members say the upcoming parliamentary elections in January will be rigged.

In another move to shore up his power, President Musharraf also put the country's nuclear arsenal firmly in government control, handing it over to the National Command Authority.

The development comes amid international concern that the nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists.

Last month, the New York Times reported the U.S. has spent almost $100 million on a program to help Pakistan guard its nuclear weapons. The newspaper quoted experts who say Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is among the world's most vulnerable to terrorists.

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

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