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October 17, 1999
Musharraf announces 'unilateral military de-escalation' along border
Pakistani Army Chief Pervez Musharraf said tonight in his second national address since the military seized power on October 12 that army rule would last no longer than necessary but he gave no clear timeframe.
Musharraf said the military seized power to guide Pakistan ''out of a dark age'' and he had no choice but to overthrow the government of prime minister Nawaz Sharief.
He said it was unthinkable that Sharief's associates denied his aircraft landing rights at Karachi last Tuesday and added that the plane might have crashed or been forced to land in India.
Musharraf said the president of the outgoing government, Rafiq Tarar, had agreed to stay on.
Pakistan's new military ruler, announced a ''unilateral military de-escalation'' along the border with India in a gesture to improve relations between the neighbours.
Musharraf said he wanted Pakistan and India to work together to take South Asia out of economic backwardness.
Musharraf, who headed the Pakistani operations during the Kargil conflict, said he wanted a ''results-oriented'' dialogue with India to solve the 52-year-old dispute over Kashmir.
He said a National Security Council would be set up comprising military officers and civilians to run the country's affairs.
He said that a cabinet of ''competent people'' would report to the National Security Council, which would comprise six people, three each from the military and civilian spheres.
Musharraf said the Council would comprise himself, the heads of the navy and air force, and specialists in the fields of law, finance and foreign/national affairs.
He did not say how many people would be there in the cabinet.
Musharraf has been under heavy pressure from Western countries since last Tuesday's coup to lay out a timetable for a return to democracy.
The European Union has threatened to cut off vital aid if a time frame is not given, while a loan programme from the International Monetary Fund is also at risk.
Meanwhile, India's National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, referring to Gen Musharraf's promise to the Pakistani people about an early restoration of a democratic set-up in the country, said the general had not given any specific time frame that might lend credibility to this claim.
Asked about the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, he said ''whether it is Nawaz Sharief or General Musharraf, Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism for creating a conducive atmosphere for talks which the Kargil conflict had destroyed.''
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