ISLAMABAD, April 29: President Gen Pervez Musharraf declared here on Monday that the elections to the national and provincial assemblies as well as the Senate will be held in October this year for which the age-limit of voters has been reduced from 21 to 18 years.

“Like referendum, the age-limit will be 18 years to allow maximum participation in the October elections”, he further stated.

Addressing the nation on radio and television he said that referendum will usher in a new era of democracy.

In his 20-minute speech, the president assured the nation that the referendum will be totally fair and free to have new dawn in Pakistan to resolve crucial political and economic issues.

“We are contemplating bare minimum and unavoidable amendments but first we will have a public debate on it before their eventual incorporation in the Constitution”, he added. He said views of the public will be welcomed by his government over the issue of new constitutional amendments.

The president said that he was confident that maximum number of people will come out from their homes and offices to cast their votes in the referendum.

He also justified the alleged huge expenditure in the referendum and said, “this money is not being spent on me but only to ask a question from the people, therefore there should not be much concern about it”.

The real democracy, the president believed, was related to local government representatives. He said he was thankful to those politicians and parties who supported the setting up of local governments throughout Pakistan.

“I want to assure the Ulema and Mashaikh that no amendment will be introduced in the Constitution against the spirit of Islam”, he said adding that democracy will be established according to Islamic values.

He said he was happy to tell the nation that a huge number of transporters have volunteered to offer their vehicles to take voters to the polling stations.

The president said he was also encouraged by meeting the representatives of overseas Pakistanis who would also be vehemently taking part in the referendum.

He claimed that he enjoyed the support of all segments of the society and that after winning the referendum he would work for the welfare of the people without any discrimination.

The president said that legal and constitutional matters had been settled by the Supreme Court by declaring the holding of referendum as legal and in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.

Today a major issue of the country, he said, was the continuation of reforms, his new role and the establishment of sustainable democracy. “And if we are spending some money to achieve these big goals, it is not all that unjustified”.

The president said he needed the support of the masses to move forward and whatever their decisions will be, it will be accepted by him. “If you accept me or you do not accept me I would take your decision final in the referendum”, he assured.

But he said that people should use their right of vote in the referendum with conviction and without any pressure and that he would respect their decision.

He said that he had met people from all walks of life including politicians, Ulema, students, labourers, businessmen and common man and was encouraged by them.

The president pointed out that he had visited 23 places where he addressed public meetings and rallies and met 70 delegations from all walks of life.

“I have told the people specially the transporters and businessmen that people had been borrowing billions of dollars without any justification”, the president said.

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