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Emergency in Pakistan
Musharraf suspends Constitution, removes the independent-minded Chief Justice
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Pakistani paramilitary rangers sit alert in a truck as they arrive in front of the President House after President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Saturday.
Pakistani paramilitary rangers sit alert in a truck as they arrive in front of the President House after President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Saturday. — AFP

Gen Pervez Musharraf today suspended the Constitution and imposed emergency in the country and removed the independent-minded Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry from his office, exercising supra-constitutional authority as army chief.

General Musharraf stopped short of calling it as imposition of martial law in a repeat of October 12, 1999, coup when the expression emergency was used with all trappings of military rule after toppling Nawaz Sharif government. Musharraf also promulgated Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) assuming all constitutional powers in his capacity as army chief.

Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar, who was one of the judges in the bench that heard the case against the sacked Chief Justice and perceived to be pro-Musharraf, was appointed the new Chief Justice. He and five other judges took fresh oath under the new proclamation.

All private TV news channels were taken off air at 5 p.m. The telecast of foreign channels, including BBC, CNN, also went off air through cable operators amid reports that fresh curbs, particularly on electronic media have been imposed.

Another report said Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) along with other activist lawyers were detained. The telephone connections of several political leaders, including Imran Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Javed Hashmi, were also snapped. All opposition parties and legal fraternity have declared that they would resist the emergency and the PCO.

The PCO is apparently meant to pave the way for a purge in the judiciary as was done in early 2001 when the chief justice and five other judges were removed and the rest .

While eight judges rejected the PCO, unconfirmed report said 13 out of the 17 judges of the apex court have been removed while eight judges reportedly met in emergency to reject the PCO.

They are members of the 11-member Bench that was hearing petitions challenging the eligibility of General Musharraf to contest election.

The court challenge on his election, the judicial activism being displayed by the court in some vital cases, including the missing persons case, the contempt of court against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and 14 other senior officials and latest sentences passed against six police and administration officials, were cited as major provocation for Musharraf's desperate action.

Troops surrounded the office of Chief Justice Chaudhry where the order of his removal were served. The CJ was asked to vacate the office.

It was further announced that the present government structure at the centre and in provinces, including prime minister, governors, chief minister, federal and provincial cabinets, would continue to function.

  • All landline and mobile telephone services suspended
  • Several private TV channels taken off air
  • Security forces were deployed in the capital
  • Army troops enter the Supreme Court building

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Sharif’s party flays decision

Islamabad, November 3
The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) today condemned President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to impose a state of emergency in the country.

“This is the most condemnable act,” said Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the opposition party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to Pakistan in September after seven years in exile but was sent back within hours.

“The whole nation will resist this extra-constitutional measure,” he said. — AP

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Road to emergency

A timeline of some key political events in Pakistan in recent months:

  • March 9, 2007: Musharraf suspends Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on allegations of misconduct. Lawyers rally to reinstate the top judge and Musharraf's popularity plummets as their pro-democracy campaign grows.
  • July 10: After a week-long siege, Musharraf orders troops to storm the Red Mosque in Islamabad to crush a Taliban-style movement based there. At least 105 persons are killed in the raid. A wave of deadly militant attacks and suicide bombings follow.
  • July 20: Supreme Court reinstates Chief Justice Chaudhry, dealing a blow to Musharraf's authority.
  • July 27: Musharraf meets ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Abu Dhabi to thrash out how to move the country towards a civilian-led democracy. Bhutto sets conditions, including that Musharraf steps down as army chief, talks are inconclusive.
  • Sept 10: Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister Musharraf deposed eight years ago and subsequently exiled, is arrested at Islamabad airport. The Supreme Court had cleared his return, and is hearing petitions that the government was in contempt of court for putting Sharif on a flight to Saudia Arabia, where he still languishes.
  • Oct 2: Musharraf designates a successor as army chief, in the most concrete move towards making good a pledge to step down he first made in December 2003. Government announces it is dropping corruption charges against Bhutto, clearing way for her return.
  • Oct 19: As many as 139 persons killed in a suicide bomb bid to assassinate Bhutto during a procession through Karachi on her return from eight years of self-imposed exile. The attack is one of the deadliest ever in Pakistan.
  • Nov 2: Supreme Court reconvenes to hear challenges whether Musharraf was eligible to stand for re-election by parliament on October 6, while still army chief. His current term expires on November 15. Separately, sources say about 800 persons have died, more than half of them in suicide bombings, since the storming of the Red Mosque in July.
  • Nov 3: Musharraf imposes emergency rule. — Reuters

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