Archive for the ‘martial law’ Category

Commentary: Momentous day for Pakistan, Bhutto’s legacy

March 18, 2008
By Asif Ali Zardari

Asif Ali Zardari is the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party and widower of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in Pakistan in December.

In this handout photo released by Pakistan Parliament House, ...
In this handout photo released by Pakistan Parliament House, Asif Ali Zardari, left, widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party waves as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif looks on during the National assembly’s first session at Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, March 17, 2008. Pakistan inaugurated a new parliament on Monday dominated by opponents of President Pervez Musharraf who have vowed to crimp his powers and review his U.S.-backed policies against al-Qaida and the Taliban.
(AP Photo/Pakistan Parliament House, HO)

(CNN) — Monday was a momentous day for the people of Pakistan, but a bittersweet day for me.

Sitting in the gallery watching a democratically elected National Assembly headed by the Pakistan Peoples Party and its coalition partners, I thought of the terrible price paid for this moment of liberty. I thought of the many jailed, beaten, tortured, and exiled. I thought of all of those who had their reputations assaulted. I thought of the undermining and dismantling of Pakistani civil society. I thought of the attacks on the independence and autonomy of the judicial system. I thought of the censorship of the press, emergency rule and martial law.

But of course more than anything else, I thought of my beloved wife, Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, who sacrificed her life for her beliefs and her country. This was the day of her triumph, the vindication of her long battle for the restoration of democracy. For my country, this was a day of celebration. But for me and our children, this day was also a day of tears. Democracy had come to Pakistan, but at a terrible, terrible price.

Last week, the two largest political parties in Pakistan agreed to form a coalition government that would restore democracy and bring stability to our country. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which I lead after the assassination of my wife, has joined the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, to form a broad-based, democratic, liberal government in Pakistan — an umbrella of reconciliation and consensus. The new prime minister, from the PPP, will be announced within the next few days.

In agreeing to form a coalition government Mr. Sharif and I have responded to the mandate given by the people of Pakistan in the February 18 election. Pakistan’s people no longer want to live under the thumb of a dictator. They want an end to terrorism and violence and wish to join the rest of the modern world in the pursuit of peace and prosperity. They want to restore the supremacy of the people’s house, the National Assembly, and free it from the sword of Damocles of a marginal presidency with inflated, unconstitutional authority.

Pakistan’s political leaders and people have suffered from the politics of personal destruction; we have been battered by dictatorship; we have seen civil society taken apart and a free and independent judiciary destroyed. We have seen international assistance, secured in the name of fighting terrorism, diverted towards making Pakistan’s affluent few richer. We have seen progress on education, health and women’s rights stopped and reversed. But now, with renewed confidence in democratic parties like the PPP and PML-N, it is time for the rebirth of a democratic, vital and progressive Pakistan.

Some fear a coalition government would lack the necessary strength to tackle Pakistan’s myriad problems. But cooperation between the country’s biggest political parties, representing an overwhelming majority of the people, would bring greater stability than one-man rule. Together, the PPP and PML-N will be able to build a strong civil society. That would go a long way to erasing the scars of militarism and militancy. We will focus on providing education and employment at the grassroots levels so the country’s youth can play an integral role in building a strong national economy.

Under the rule of Pervez Musharraf, extremists were allowed to thrive along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The key to improving security there is not to make citizens in Pakistan’s tribal areas feel like second-rate citizens kept under lock and key, caught between the threats of violence from militants and the military. Rather, we must let all of our citizens, including those in the Federally Administered Tribal Area, know they are part participants in the growth of Pakistan’s economy and civil society.

Fostering a better level of trust and understanding among the people in the border areas, and delivering on their key needs, is essential to enhancing security in the FATA and throughout Pakistan. While immediate steps must be taken to hunt down identified terrorists, the long-term solution to extremism lies in respecting the will of the people and in providing them with a means of livelihood at every level — food, clothing, shelter, jobs and education. By talking to and respecting our people, we will be able to isolate the extremists and terrorists.

Those of us who are now in a position of leadership seek, in my wife’s words, “a tomorrow better than any of the yesterdays we have ever known.” We see a Pakistan where all children, regardless of their socio-economic standing or their gender, are guaranteed compulsory and quality primary and secondary education. We see a Pakistani educational system of quality teachers, who receive decent salaries, and teach in modern classrooms with state-of-the-art computers and technology. We see a Pakistan where political madrassas that teach hatred are closed, and educational institutions that focus on science and technology flourish.

The PPP has a vision to build a nation that is one of the great capital markets of the world; a revitalized nation that will generate international investment. We look forward to the complete electrification of all of our villages, the purification of our nation’s drinking water, the privatization of the public sector, the expansion of the energy sector, the development of our export industries, the modernization of our ports and the rebuilding our national infrastructure. All of these elements are essential to a Pakistan where a democratically elected government, with the mandate of the people, confronts and marginalizes the forces of extremism and terrorism wherever they may exist in our nation. In other words, I see the Pakistan for which my wife lived and died.

Pakistan’s democracy has not evolved over the past 60 years because the generals believed they should intervene in politics and run the country. The army’s misperception of itself as the country’s only viable institution, and its deep-rooted suspicion of the civilian political process, has prevented democracy from flourishing. The PPP and its allies will reverse the current regime’s suppression of civil society and free speech. We will establish a Press Complaints Commission similar to that of the United Kingdom and stand up for the democratic rights of citizens to freely establish television and radio stations, subject to the basic legal framework.

While the tasks ahead are not easy, the Pakistan Peoples Party plans to work in good faith with its fellow democratic parties and our coalition allies to achieve our goal of building a new, progressive Pakistan. Everything will not come at once. The reformation of Pakistan — politically, economically and socially — will be a long and complex process. But we are determined to begin and we are determined to succeed.

We did not come this far, we did not sacrifice this much, to fail.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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Pakistan on the brink

November 6, 2007

Lead Editorial
The Washington Times
November 6, 2007

No one knows for certain where nuclear-armed Pakistan is headed.

President Pervez Musharraf stepped closer toward the ledge yesterday following a “state-of-emergency” declaration by imprisoning thousands of political adversaries, sacking the supreme court and arresting lawyers and judges who refuse a loyalty oath. That follows a silencing of the media, the postponement of January elections and the imposition of a heavy police and military street presence to intimidate opponents.

In essence, Gen. Musharraf is playing his remaining strengths in a military uniform in a bid to retain power, keenly aware that his cooperation in the war on terror is indispensable.

Since Gen. Musharraf seized power in 1999, military officers’ extensive presence in government and in the doling of favors have worn on the military’s reputation. It is not clear how much longer the Pakistani public will countenance Islamabad’s extensive politicization. Meanwhile, internationally, Gen. Musharraf clearly believes that he has called the West’s bluff, and so far, there are dangerously few signs that he is wrong.

A sense of confusion in U.S. policy emerged yesterday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced her disappointment on Sunday and called for a review of U.S. security assistance to Pakistan in what seemed like a warning to Gen. Musharraf to stop the dictatorial backsliding.

Yesterday, she also called for Gen. Musharraf to hold the January elections that he promised. Then, intentionally or not, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates all but declared any U.S. security review to be toothless. “Pakistan is a country of great strategic importance to the United States and a key partner in the war on terror,” Mr. Gates said from China, urging a return to “law-based, constitutional and democratic rule as soon as possible.” But any defense review will be “mindful to not undermine on-going counterterrorism efforts.”

In reality, Gen. Musharraf has already undermined U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The groundwork was laid in decades of official encouragement of radical Islamist opinion. Under the general himself, a see-no-evil policy regarding the intelligence services’ cooperation with radicals has reigned.

Now, this week’s “second coup” drags U.S. assistance through a new layer of mud. The general seemingly cannot distinguish between threats to his continued occupation of the executive offices and genuine threats to the security of Pakistan. Or can he?

With police tear-gassing and beating lawyers in the streets, Western diplomats must attempt to walk Gen. Musharraf back from the ledge.

Unless and until a post-Musharraf path is devised, careful negotiation is the chief option for this nuclear-armed and autocratic government.

Pakistan says to hold election by January

November 5, 2007

By Kamran Haider and Augustine Anthony
(This article appeared on page 1 of The Washington Times on November 6, 2007, under the optimistic headline “Pakistan Elections Restored.”  On page 1 of The Washington Post, a picture taken just seconds apart from the photo here appeared with a much more circumspect report.)

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan said it would hold a national election by mid-January and President Pervez Musharraf pledged to quit the military after criticism from the United States for imposing emergency rule.

Musharraf has detained hundreds of lawyers and opposition politicians since taking emergency powers on Saturday, a move seen as designed to pre-empt a Supreme Court ruling on his re-election as president last month.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who values Musharraf as an ally in his battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, urged Pakistan’s president to lift the state of emergency, hold elections and quit his military post.

Police used teargas against stone-throwing lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore, and wielded batons to break up another protest by dozens outside the High Court in Karachi.
Photo

It had been unclear whether parliamentary elections would go ahead in January as scheduled.

But Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum told Reuters there would be no delay and national and provincial assemblies would be dissolved by November 15 ahead of the vote that is supposed to transform Pakistan into a civilian-led democracy.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071105/ts_nm/
pakistan_dc;_ylt=AtRHXASQPItzXpTr5Fc3kP6s0
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Thousands battle Pakistani police

November 5, 2007

By MUNIR AHMAD, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Police fired tear gas and battered thousands of lawyers protesting President Gen. Pervez Musharraf‘s decision to impose emergency rule, as Western allies threatened to review aid to the troubled Muslim nation. More than 1,500 people have been arrested in 48 hours, and authorities put a stranglehold on independent media.

Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup and is also head of Pakistan‘s army, suspended the constitution on Saturday ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on whether his re-election as president was legal. He ousted independent-minded judges, stripped media freedoms and granted sweeping powers to authorities to crush dissent.

Read the rest:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071105/ap_on_re_as/pakistan;_
ylt=AteXKoAF.IQrkGRfN4DabPqs0NUE

Pakistan: Muhammad Reports From the Tribal Areas

November 5, 2007

November 5, 2007 

Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Dear Sir,

What you have stated a few days ago in an email to me has happened. Your observation was proved to be correct. It shows that you have been doing a good job for the your country and Pakistan. In other words I shall simply say that you have been great to us.

After the declaration of emergency the situation of our areas has taken a dramatic turn for better. According to a report, Tribal militants released 213 Pakistan Army soldiers in South Waziristan on Sunday after the government freed 25 of their men under a prisoners’ swap made possible by a 21-member peace Jirga.

The soldiers had been in the custody of militants loyal to Baitullah Mahsud since August 30. They had surrendered along with 35 other troops to the militants after their military convoy was trapped in the Shawangi Naray area near Wana.

Maj-Gen Waheed Arshad, director-general, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), confirmed the reports about the release of the Pakistan Army troops. Talking to newsmen, he said 25 tribesmen held under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) by the local authorities had also been freed and delivered to the Jirga. In reply to a question, he said the militants had already returned the military vehicles and the arms seized from the troops.

Tribal and official sources said the 213 soldiers were handed over by the militants to the Jirga at Tiarza, a village located in the Mahsud tribal territory, and then driven in 13 vehicles to Wana. Once in Wana, the freed soldiers were delivered to the military authorities. The militants gifted a pair of new shalwar-kameez and chappals to each soldier before seeing them at Tiarza.

Among the freed soldiers were six army officers, including a colonel, majors and captains. Colonel Zafar led the military convoy that was seized by the militants.

Militants’ sources said the prisoners’ swap became possible when the government agreed to release 25 of their men. They said the 25 tribesmen were collected from different jails in various cities and brought to Dera Ismail Khan Saturday before being flown to Wana in a helicopter Sunday. They said these men were then handed over to the tribal Jirga which brought them to Tiarza to complete the prisoners’ swap. Contrary to the claims by government officials, almost all of them were booked on terrorism charges and jailed.

These 25 men included Suhail Zeb, a cousin of militants’ commander Baitullah Mahsud. He was arrested by the police from a bungalow on Canal Road in Dera Ismail Khan along with three suicide bombers reportedly wearing explosives-filled jackets. They were later tried in a court and sentenced to 24 years imprisonment. Two of these 25 men were arrested in Karachi and were being held in a jail there.

The 21-member peace Jirga, which comprises 11 Mahsud tribal elders and 10 clerics from the tribe, had been mediating between the militants and the government. Maulana Merajuddin, a former MNA from South Waziristan affiliated with JUI-F and MMA, and his colleague Senator Saleh Shah, were among the more active members of the jirga.

The militants had also demanded an end to all military deployment and operations in the areas inhabited by Mahsud tribe in South Waziristan. They wanted the removal of roadside checkpoints in their area. The government appears to have accepted most of their demands.

Dear Sir, now President Musharraf has been showing seriousness in war on terrorism. One thing is disturbing his team, through which he is running the administration, is consisting of the same corrupt officials. At least the people of Bajaur Agency, tribal areas will never forget your cooperation in their struggle against terrorists.

Thank you very much,

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,
Tribal Areas Pakistan

Pakistani police detain 500 activists

November 5, 2007

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Police and soldiers emboldened by state of emergency powers swept up hundreds of activists and opposition members on Sunday, dragged away protesters shouting “Shame on you!”, and turned government buildings into barbed-wire compounds.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s government said parliamentary elections could be delayed up to a year as it tries to stamp out a growing Islamic militant threat — effectively linking two of the greatest concerns of Pakistan’s biggest international donors: the United States and Britain.

Increasingly concerned about the unfolding crisis, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was reviewing billions of dollars in aid to its close terrorism-fighting ally. Britain is also examining its assistance.

“Some of the aid that goes to Pakistan is directly related to the counterterrorism mission,” Rice told reporters traveling with her. “We just have to review the situation.”

Read the rest at:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071105/ap_on_re_
as/pakistan;_ylt=AjNakf7ILaJUhHFPHuPOR
Jas0NUE

Pakistan: U.S. Calls For Democracy

November 4, 2007

ISTANBUL (AP) — The Bush administration yesterday called the declaration of a state of emergency in Pakistan a “sharp setback” for democracy and urged a swift return to a civilian government.

“The U.S. has made clear it does not support extraconstitutional measures because those measures take Pakistan away from the path of democracy and civilian rule,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

Miss Rice said that to her knowledge, U.S. officials had yet to hear directly from Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, after his declaration.

“Whatever happens, we will be urging a quick return to civilian rule,” Miss Rice told reporters traveling with her to an international conference in Turkey.

In Washington, a White House spokesman said “all parties involved should move along the democratic path peacefully and quickly.” Britain’s foreign secretary said Pakistan’s future “rests on harnessing the power of democracy and the rule of law to achieve the goals of stability, development and countering terrorism.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20071104/FOREIGN/
111040040/1001

Crisis in Pakistan: Musharraf, Bhutto and Sharif At Odds

November 3, 2007

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) (November 4, 2007)- Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Saturday, deploying troops and sacking a top judge in a bid to reassert his flagging authority against political rivals and Islamist militants.Nuclear-armed Pakistan’s internal security has deteriorated sharply in recent months with a wave of suicide attacks by al Qaeda-inspired militants, including one that killed 139 people.

State-run Pakistan Television said Musharraf had suspended the constitution and declared an emergency, ending weeks of speculation that the general who seized power in a 1999 coup might impose emergency rule or martial law.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Turkey, criticized the measures as “highly regrettable” and said she hoped Pakistan would have a free and fair election in January as promised.

Witnesses said troops were deployed at Pakistan Television and radio stations, and most phone lines were down. Other troops sealed off the thoroughfare where the presidency building, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court are located.

Shots were heard in several neighborhoods of Karachi, where there is strong support for former opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister.
Television channels said that Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, whose earlier dismissal in March marked the beginning of a slide in Musharraf’s popularity, had been told that his services were “no longer required.”

Chaudhry had been reinstated in July.

Musharraf had been awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on whether he was eligible to run for re-election last month while still army chief. The court had said on Friday it would reconvene on Monday and try to finish the case quickly.

Chaudhry and eight other judges refused to endorse the provisional constitutional order issued by the president.

LAWYER ARRESTED

Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, told reporters at his home he was being arrested.

“One man has taken the entire nation hostage … Time has come for General Musharraf to go,” he said. Fellow lawyers shouted “Go Musharraf Go” as Ahsan was taken away by police.

The move is expected to put off parliamentary elections due in January, although Pakistan Television said that the cabinet, national and provincial assemblies would continue to function.

A senior security official told Reuters that Musharraf would seek approval for the move from the cabinet later, after which there were expectations he would address the nation.

The cabinet was due to start meeting at 7 pm (1400 GMT).

Musharraf had said he would quit as army chief if he was given a second term, and he had allowed Bhutto back into Pakistan to lead her party into the national elections.

A suicide bombing killed 139 people on Oct 19 when thousands of supporters flocked to the streets to welcome Bhutto when she returned to Karachi from eight years of self-imposed exile. She had flown to Dubai on Thursday.

Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari said she was already on a flight back to Pakistan from Dubai. He described Musharraf’s move as “definitely not pleasant news.”

“We’re hoping to build institutions, not destroy them.”

Exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, deposed by Musharraf in the 1999 coup, described his decision to invoke emergency powers as a form of martial law.

“We are heading towards a chaotic situation, heading towards anarchy,” Sharif told Indian news channel CNN-IBN in an interview replayed by Dawn Television in Pakistan.

Musharraf’s troubles began in March when he suspended Supreme Court Justice Chaudhry on allegations of misconduct.

Critics accused him of trying to put pressure on the court not to block his re-election and Musharraf’s popularity plummeted as lawyers rallied to support the top judge.

In July, after a week-long siege, Musharraf ordered troops to storm the Red Mosque in Islamabad to crush a Taliban-style movement based there.

At least 105 people were killed in the raid and a wave of deadly militant attacks and suicide bombings followed.

(Additional reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore, Simon Gardner and Zeeshan Haider)

Pakistan: Musharraf Imposes Martial Law

November 3, 2007

The Wall Street Journal (Online)
November 3, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday, suspending the constitution, replacing the chief justice before a crucial Supreme Court ruling on his future as president, and cutting communications in the capital.

Pakistan’s main opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, flew back to the country from Dubai and was sitting in an airplane at Karachi’s airport, waiting to see if she would be arrested or deported, a spokesman said. Dozens of paramilitary troops surrounded her house.

Seven of the 18 Supreme Court judges immediately condemned the emergency, which suspended the current constitution.
***************

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON, Associated Press Writer 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday, suspending the constitution, replacing the chief justice before a crucial Supreme Court ruling on his future as president, and cutting communications in the capital. Paramilitary troops and police swarmed the capital.

The opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was flying from Dubai on Saturday. Her spokesman in London said she was already sitting in a plane at Karachi airport, waiting to see if she would be arrested or deported. Another party official said her flight was due to arrive later Saturday.

Seven of the 17 Supreme Court judges immediately rejected the emergency, which suspended the current constitution. Police blocked entry to the Supreme Court building and later took the deposed chief justice and other judges away in a convoy, witnesses said.

The government halted all television transmissions in major cities other than state-controlled Pakistan TV. Telephone service in the capital, Islamabad, was cut.

A copy of the emergency order obtained by The Associated Press justified the declaration on the grounds that “some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive” and “weakening the government’s resolve” to fight terrorism.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged restraint on all sides and a swift return to democracy in Pakistan.

The United States “does not support extraconstitutional measures,” Rice said from Turkey, where she was participating in a conference with Iraq’s neighbors.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup and has been a close ally of the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has struggled to contain spreading Islamic militancy that has centered along the Afghan border and spread to the capital and beyond.

Pakistanis have increasingly turned against the government of Musharraf, who failed earlier this year to oust Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry — the chief justice replaced Saturday.

Rice said that to her knowledge, U.S. officials had yet to hear directly from Musharraf after his declaration.

“Whatever happens we will be urging a quick return to civilian rule” Rice told reporters traveling with her, and a “return to constitutional order and the commitment to free and fair elections.”
Photo

Crucial parliamentary elections meant to restore civilian rule are due by January. Musharraf himself was overwhelmingly re-elected last month by the current parliament, dominated by his ruling party, but the vote was challenged. The Supreme Court had been expected to rule imminently on whether he could run for president while still serving as army chief.

Bhutto, seen by many supporters as key to a possible return to democracy, went to Dubai after being targetted by assassins in Pakistan last month. Suicide bombers attacked her homecoming parade after eight years in exile, killing more than 140 people.

She was sitting on a plane at Karachi airport Saturday after returning from Dubai, said Wajid Hasan, a spokesman.

“She is waiting to see if she is going to be arrested or deported,” Hasan said from London, adding that he had spoken to the former Pakistani prime minister by telephone while her plane was on the tarmac in Karachi.

But Fahmida Mirza, an information secretary for her Pakistan People’s Party, said Bhutto had not yet arrived. The discrepancy could not immediately be explained.

Musharraf’s order allows courts to function but suspends some fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, including freedom of speech. It also allows authorities to detain people without informing them of the charges.

Military vehicles patrolled and troops blocked roads in the administrative heart of the capital. Paramilitary troops behind rolled barbed wire blocked access to an official compound housing lawmakers — barring even wives, children and even a ruling party senator from entering.

In Karachi, about 100 police and paramilitary troops surrounded Bhutto’s house and a bomb disposal squad searched the building, witnesses said.

There were reports of gunfire in several districts of the city, but it appeared to be aerial firing, police said.

The emergency was expected to be followed by arrests of lawyers and other perceived opponents of the government, including civil society activists and possibly even members of the judiciary itself, a ruling party lawmaker said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Private Geo TV reported the arrest of the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan — a lawyer for Chaudhry in the case that led to his reinstatement in July.

With telephone lines cut, it was not possible to contact government spokesmen for confirmation.

Chaudhry and other judges drove out of the court building in a convoy of black cars over two hours after the emergency was declared, under police escort. They were being shifted to their official residences nearby. Officers stopped reporters from approaching.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was deported in September as he tried to return from exile, condemned the emergency and said Musharraf should resign. He also urged the people of Pakistan to rise against Musharraf.

“If you don’t do it today, it will too late then,” he told Geo TV from Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan’s Musharraf declares emergency

November 3, 2007

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON, Associated Press Writer 1 minute ago (Story broke at 0930 Eastern Time)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday, state TV said, ahead of a crucial Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent election win.

The report gave no reason for the emergency but it follows weeks of speculation that the president — who is also chief of the army — could take the step, amid rising political turmoil and Islamic militant violence.

“The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order,” a newscaster on Pakistan TV said.

The U.S. and other Western allies this week urged him not to take steps that would jeopardize the country’s transition to democracy. Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup.

During previous emergencies in Pakistan, a provisional constitutional order has led to the suspension of some basic rights of citizens and for judges to take a fresh oath of office.

In this picture released by Pakistan's Press Information Department ...

 President General Pervez Musharraf

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking to reporters Thursday en route to diplomatic meetings in Turkey and the Middle East, said the U.S. would not support any move by Musharaff to declare martial law.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday, state TV said.

“The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order,” a newscaster on Pakistan TV said.