Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad
A day after speculations that President Gen Pervez Musharraf had decided on imposing emergency in the country, the Pakistan government on Thursday categorically refuted the rumours that had gripped the country since last night.
Apart from evoking a strong reaction from politicians, the speculation had resulted in a stock market crash as it dipped by a record 500 points when it opened on Thursday morning.
“There is no plan to promulgate emergency,” information minister Mohammad Ali Durrani told mediapersons after a meeting with President Musharraf at Camp Office in Rawalpindi on Thursday morning.
Ruling Pakistan Muslim League chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who had reportedly triggered the rumours on Wednesday night and was also due to meet the President, said the reports of emergency or imposition of martial law were highly exaggerated. He told mediapersons at the Parliament House that the government had been discussing various options to deal with the evolving situation on the confidence that the President would shed his uniform by the end of this year.
(UNI reported that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called up Gen Musharraf early this morning, and spoke to him at length. It is learnt that the call came after 0200 hrs (Pakistan Standard Time) last night, and the two leaders spoke for over 15 minutes, though there was no information of what they talked about).
He said discussions on government options to deal with the evolving situation on different fronts were a routine affair. “Emergency is one of them, but no decision has been taken,” Shujaat said.
He, however, said if at all the President felt constrained to impose emergency, it would be a very limited step. There is no truth that the governor rule was being imposed in provinces, he clarified.
Asked if the government felt sacred that the Supreme Court might allow exiled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif into Pakistan, Shujaat said there was no cause for the government to panic over any such decision.
PML secretary general Mushahid Hussain Sayed said martial law or emergency would not resolve any problem. Instead, these would be highly counter-productive and further complicate the situation, he said.
Sayed regretted that certain people were giving wrong advise to the President and said they were the same people who had advised him to move against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. He expressed the confidence that President Musharraf would shed his uniform by the end of the year.
Talking to mediapersons after a meeting with the President, Information minister Durrani said the General was keen on creating a conducive atmosphere for holding free and fair elections in the country. “He is fully committed to follow the democratic and constitutional path,” he added.
Despite denials, Musharraf continued top-level consultations on Thursday that were mainly aimed at tackling the increasing judicial activism. His legal and media advisers, besides the ruling party leaders, made a beeline to the Camp Office throughout the day. Coalition partner MQM said the option of emergency had been shelved temporarily but it still seemed to be still on the cards.
Political leaders, including Benazir Bhutto, Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif, Aitzaz Ahsan, Liaquat Baloch and Hafiz Hussain, reacted sharply and said the people would resist such undemocratic measures in the country. Imran said Musharraf was becoming increasingly nervous with each development and it seemed he was contemplating desperate measures. However, he would not survive this year, he added.
Bhutto said emergency would be a retrogressive act, pushing back the process of democracy. She said Musharraf’s move would bring lawyers, political parties and others on the streets. She blamed PML chief Shujaat of driving the President to prolong the life of National Assembly in order to delay election.