Saturday, November 3, 2007

Emergency derails poll hopes

Dubai: Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf on Saturday declared emergency rule and suspended the constitution, sparking a chorus of condemnation and concern around the world.

Minutes after the militarty ruler announced a provisional constitutional order, troops were deployed around the Supreme Court, state-run TV stations and other inistitutions across Islamabad.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who along with eight other judges refused to endorse the emergency order, was told that his services "were no longer required". He was swiftly replaced by Supreme Court judge Hameed Dogar. The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan, was arrested shortly afterwards.The emergency came as the court was due to rule on the legality of Musharraf's re-election victory in October. Analysts and political observers quoted by the BBC said the government feared the court verdict would go against Musharraf and the emergency was seen as a desparate bid by the army chief to reassert his flagging authority against political rivals and rising militancy.

The declaration raises doubts about whether national elections will be held as planned in January.

The text of the declaration of emergency said that Musharraf invoked emergency rule because of mounting militant attacks and interference by members of the judiciary, which was seen as weakening Pakistan's fight against terror.

The global community reacted with concern and regret. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticised the measures as "highly regrettable" and urged Pakistan to return to democracy. The UK, Sweden and other Western powers expressed "grave concern" over the situation, while nuclear neighbour India called for a speedy return to "normalcy" and "democracy".

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