Archive for the ‘state of emergency’ Category

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.

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.”

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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.


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.”

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.