Emergency in Pakistan
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.
Islamabad, November 3
“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
timeline of some key political events in Pakistan in recent months: