Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf embarked on a five-year term as a civilian president yesterday, a day after ceding the powerful post of army chief -- the basis of his rule for the past eight years.
"Congratulations, Mr. President," Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar said after administering the oath to Musharraf.
In his inaugural address, Musharraf welcomed as "good" for political reconciliation the return from exile of his old foes, former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
"I only hope that they will ... move forward toward a conciliatory, civilized, democratic and political environment in the future," he said.
However, neither was present at the ceremony in the state palace in Islamabad, and it remained unclear whether the changeover would defuse their threat to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections.
Such a move would undercut Musharraf's effort to legitimize his rule through a democratic ballot. However, the president appeared to return to his usual bullish self after blinking back tears as he ended his 46-year military career on Tuesday.
"This is a milestone in the transition of Pakistan to the complete essence of democracy," Musharraf told an audience of government officials, foreign diplomats and military generals.
"Anyone who is talking of any boycotts should hear this out: come hell or high water, elections will be held on Jan. 8. Nobody derails it," he said.
Bhutto and Sharif's parties dismissed Musharraf's swearing in as a civilian president as too little, too late.
In Lahore, street clashes broke out between police and scores of lawyers who were protesting Musharraf's inauguration.
Four lawyers and three officers were injured, police said.
About 200 demonstrators flung bricks and sticks at policemen. Police picked up the missiles and threw them back.