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Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov

Turkmenistan will hold a presidential vote on February 12, state media reported on October 12.

The announcement comes a month after Turkmenistan passed constitutional changes which removed barriers to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s lifelong rule.

The election date was approved by the Turkmen parliament on October 15.

The amendments, signed by Berdymukhammedov last month after approval by the rubber-stamp parliament and the Council of Elders on September 14, scrap a rule that barred anyone over 70 from presidential ballots in the tightly controlled Central Asian country.

They also extend future presidential terms to seven years, from the current five.

State news agency TDH said that the Democratic Party, the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and the Agrarian Party would all present their own presidential candidates.

All three parties strongly support Berdymukhammedov's rule.

Berdymukhammedov, 59, won elections by landslides in 2007 and 2012 after coming to power following the death of Sapurmurat Niyazov in late 2006.

Gas-rich Turkmenistan is one of the most isolated countries in the world and has never held an election that was deemed fair and democratic by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Rights groups say dissent is not tolerated, government critics are routinely jailed or placed in psychiatric hospitals, and the country has no independent media.

Based on reporting by AFP
Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida (file photo)

Pakistan has lifted a travel ban imposed on a leading journalist for reporting that civilian officials had argued with the country's powerful military over its alleged covert support for militants.

An official memorandum issued by the Interior Ministry stated that it had "been decided to delete the name of Cyril Almeida ... from the Exit Control List."

No further details were given on what prompted the government to remove Almeida's name.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan told reporters on October 13 that journalist would not be allowed to leave the country until the completion of a government committee's inquiry into the story, which authorities claim was fabricated.

Almeida is a leading columnist and assistant editor at Dawn, one of Pakistan's most-respected English-language dailies.

Human rights activists urged the government immediately to lift travel and other restrictions on Almeida.

Almeida's October 6 story was about a high-level security meeting between military and government officials over the possible arrest of members of a militant anti-India group that became very intense.

Based on reporting by AFP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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