Pakistan's election commission has formally announced that parliamentary elections will take place January 8. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that the commission is moving forward with President Pervez Musharraf's preferred timetable despite criticism that the election process is deeply flawed.

Pakistan's Chief Election Commissioner, Qazi Muhammad Farooq, announced on state television that political parties could begin submitting nominations Wednesday for the January 8 elections.

He says he wants to assure Pakistanis that the elections will be held in a peaceful, fair and transparent environment, in accordance with the laws of the country.

Opposition leaders swiftly denounced the timetable, saying the commission and the caretaker government charged with overseeing the elections are biased.

Prominent opposition activist and former cricket star Imran Khan meanwhile began a hunger strike while in detention Monday to protest emergency rule. General Musharraf left Pakistan Tuesday for two days of talks with officials in Saudi Arabia.