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Police on high alert
Pak plans to impose emergency?
Afzal khan writes from Islamabad

A flurry of meetings and consultations at the Army House triggered speculations in the capital that President Pervez Musharraf has finally decided to impose emergency in the country that is being contemplated for the past couple of weeks.

The President met legal experts, including adviser Sayed Sharifuddin Pirzada and law secretary Mansoor Ahmed, during the day, besides political allies like ruling party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

President Pervez Musharraf cancelled his projected trip to Kabul for Thursday and instead sent Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to represent Pakistan at the grand jirga jointly sponsored by Musharraf and Afghan President Hamed Karazi. Musharraf talked to Karzai on telephone to regret his inability to attend the jirga for domestic reasons.

Informed sources said the President had also decided to replace Shaukat Aziz with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. Media teams thronged Shujaat’s residence here late at night amid a stream of party MPs who were greeting Shujaat on his prospective elevation.

Shujaat told newsmen at his residence that emergency might be imposed any time. It was being speculated that the order may came after midnight tonight.

These sources said judicial activism, threat of lawyers’ agitation against Musharraf’s candidature and plans by exiled premier Nawaz Sharif to return to country for which he had moved the Supreme Court. The court begins hearing of the petition tomorrow.

Musharraf has vowed to block his return while arguing that it would destabilise present political dispensation.

The emergency would allow Musharraf to extend the term of the National Assembly for one year and postpone general elections. However, the presidential election and polls for provincial assemblies would have to be held on schedule. During the emergency all fundamental rights would stand suspended, including the right to assembly and hold demonstrations. Reacting to speculations about the emergency, political leaders, including Imran Khan, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Nisar Ali Khan and Javed Hashmi said they would resist the presidential order and mobilise people for a sustained campaign.

The emergency can be imposed by the President under conditions of war, financial collapse, break down of law and order situation in the country and condition of turmoil.

Throughout the day government and President’s spokesmen kept denying that emergency was bring imposed. Major General Rashid Qureshi denied that any meeting was held at all or that a decision had been taken on the emergency issue.

But late at night, minister of state for information Tariq Azim said though a definite decision had not been taken, he could not rule it out in view of domestic and external situation.

Officials said the President had called a top level meeting on Thursday before proclaiming emergency.

PTI adds: Pakistan Muslim League (QA) president Chaudhry Shujaat also reportedly told women parliamentarians of the party during a reception hosted by him at his residence that emergency was likely to be declared, the channel said.

The speaker of the National Assembly was also called at the reception in which he was consulted that in the case of emergency how it could be approved by the National Assembly.

Prominent lawyer Aitzaz Ahesan, who defended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry leading to his reinstatement, said the conditions in Pakistan did not warrant the imposition of Emergency.

Self-exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told the channel that any attempt to impose Emergency would be deemed as a “negative” step. “It will be a retrograde step for efforts to restore democracy in Pakistan,” she said.

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