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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK
Musharraf puts faith in voters
Pakistan Election Commission staff move ballot boxes ahead of the referendum
Extensive preparations have been made for the vote
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By Susannah Price
BBC correspondent in Islamabad
line

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has appealed to the people to support him in Tuesday's referendum, and said he would accept their decision.


This is your country, and it will be your decision

Pervez Musharraf
His speech was broadcast on state television and radio just over 12 hours before polls were due to open.

The opposition has called for a boycott of the referendum which will decide whether or not General Musharraf should remain in power for the next five years.

The general called the referendum "the day of verdict".

In an address broadcast nationwide, he appealed for a yes vote, which would allow him to continue his reforms.

Limited opposition

He said in future, democracy in Pakistan would be based on progressive Islamic teachings, and that essential changes would be introduced into the constitution after public consultations.

General Pervez Musharraf campaigning in Lahore
Pervez Musharraf says the vote will be free and fair

The speech, lasting just 20 minutes, ended with General Musharraf announcing he would respect the choice of the people.

"My sisters and brothers, tomorrow is the day of verdict. I need your strength to move forward.

"I would fully accept your decision, and it will be final for me. I am confident you'll take the decision with due consideration," he said.

However, General Musharraf has still not clearly spelt out if he would step down if he lost the vote.

Most observers believe, however, there is little chance of this happening.

The opposition have called for a boycott, because they believe the referendum is unconstitutional and undemocratic.

They say the president should be chosen in the normal way - by the national and provincial assemblies and senate following October's general elections.

Significance of turnout

General Musharraf held several rallies nationwide, with the last on Sunday in his hometown Karachi.

The opposition alliance only received permission for one mass meeting, and said many of its supporters were detained while trying to attend.

Lawyers demonstrate against the referendum
Not all Pakistanis support the referendum

There are concerns that the lack of voters' lists may make it easier for people to cast their ballot more than once.

However, the Election Commissioner said everyone who voted would have their hand marked with indelible ink which would not fade for a week.

The Election Commissioner said results would be broadcast every half an hour shortly after the polls closed at 1900 local (1300GMT).

But many will be monitoring the turnout figures, rather than the overall result, as an indication of President Musharraf's success.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price
"The opposition say the referendum is unconstitutional"
Mariana Babari, Diplomatic correspondent - The News
"This referendum is the beginning of the end for Musharraf"
Javed Raja, Pakistan National Forum
"Musharraf said he is going to act on the ruling of the Supreme Court for the election before October"
See also:

29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's ignored voters
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan prepares to vote
28 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf 'ready' for another term
22 Apr 02 | South Asia
Court examines Musharraf poll
05 Apr 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf's referendum gamble
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf goes for 'Zia option'
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf poll approved
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Q&A: Pakistan referendum
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