U.K. Urges Pakistan to Confirm Election Date, Restore Normalcy

Britain's foreign secretary urged Pakistan's military government Monday to restore democratic and constitutional processes, and to confirm its intentions to go ahead with parliamentary elections in January.

"The whole world will be watching to see how the transition to democracy that is so important for our own security, never mind for the security and stability of Pakistan itself, is re-established," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said at a news conference.

In Pakistan on Monday, police attacked hundreds of Pakistanis protesting President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule. Western allies threatened to review aid to the troubled Muslim nation. Musharraf's government said Sunday that Pakistan's parliamentary elections could be delayed up to a year.

"Over the last two days we've seen decisions that have set back the process of democratic transition that I think is essential for the stability and security as well as the development in Pakistan. I think now is the time for leadership from President Musharraf," Miliband said.

He said he spoke separately Monday with Pakistani opposition leaders Banazhir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

Miliband praised them for calling for restraint, and urged Musharraf "to be absolutely clear that elections will go ahead on Jan. 15 on a free and fair basis, that he will indeed resign as the head of the army by Nov. 15, that arrests of political prisoners will now be reversed and they will be released, and that the restrictions on the media that have been brought in will be stopped and reversed."

Miliband said there is "a unanimous view from the international community -- including the United States, France, Germany and Portugal, and Javier Solana, the European Union's high representative on foreign policy ... that President Musharraf has very important responsibilities to fulfill his (democratic) commitments at this vital time for Pakistan."

Miliband also said restrictions imposed on Pakistani and international media, including the British Broadcasting Corp., must be lifted.

He said Britain did not plan to withdraw the 236 million pounds (euro340 million, US$493 million) in aid it has pledged to Pakistan over three years.

"Now is not the time for threats to aid that is important to the Pakistani people," Miliband said.