16 November 2002
Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, has been sworn in for a new five-year term as president. Shortly after the swearing-in ceremony, the newly-elected National Assembly held its inaugural session, beginning the process of an eventual return to democratic rule.
General Pervez Musharraf took the oath of office for his new five-year term Saturday morning at the Presidential palace in Islamabad.
"I, General Pervez Musharraf, do solemnly swear that as president of Pakistan I will discharge my duties and perform my functions honestly and in accordance with the constitution."
The swearing-in was followed 90 minutes later by the convening of Pakistan's new National Assembly. This is the first time a parliamentary body has met since President Musharraf took power in a military coup three years ago, and it puts the country on the road back to eventual democratic government.
Mr. Musharraf, who has become a key supporter of the American-led War on Terrorism, secured his new term through a controversial national referendum earlier this year. Since the October 1999 coup, the military leader has re-written Pakistan's constitution, giving him the power to dismiss Parliament and giving the military a role in the country's politics.
Most political parties insist that such changes need legislative scrutiny and ratification, and several lawmakers briefly hesitated to take the oath of office under the amended constitution Saturday. One of them, Naveed Qamar, represents the political party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
"We recognize the constitution of 1973 as it stood on the 12th of October 1999," he said. "And today when we stand up to take oath then we will take oath under the constitution as we know it and not under a partial or suspended constitution."
But the oath-taking eventually went ahead, after the acting speaker of the assembly convinced all legislators that the oath remained exactly the same, despite amendments to the body of the constitution.
Last month's general elections have produced a divided parliament. None of the three parties with the most seats, the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League, the Pakistan People's Party of Ms. Bhutto, or a six-party Islamic alliance known as Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, won a clear majority enabling it to form a government by it self.
A majority coalition is still to be put together, and there is no agreement on who will be asked to form the new government.