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No third term for Bhutto, says govt

Islamabad, November 12
Toughening her stand, main opposition leader Benazir Bhutto today ruled out further talks with President Pervez Musharraf on a power-sharing arrangement even as the government said she would not be allowed to run for a third term for the post of the prime minister.

The two-time former premier vowed to press ahead with her “long march” from Lahore to Islamabad tomorrow in protest against the emergency despite stern warnings from the government that the rally would be stopped.

“We are saying no to any more talks. It is a change from my past policy,” Bhutto told reporters in Lahore.

“We cannot work with anyone who has suspended the Constitution, imposed emergency rule and oppressed the judiciary. That’s why we are holding the long march,” she said.

The Punjab government has banned all public rallies, including the long march, and said it will strictly implement the order. On Friday, Bhutto was detained in her home in Islamabad to prevent her from leading a rally in nearby Rawalpindi.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, railway minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a close aide of Musharraf, said there is no possibility of Bhutto being given a third prime ministerial term.

He also ruled out the possibility of article 58(2b) of the Constitution — which gives the President the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and to dissolve Parliament being abrogated as demanded by Bhutto.

“I can see anybody as prime minister but not Benazir Bhutto,” Ahmed told a press conference.

Describing Bhutto as the “most corrupt, dishonest, sluggish and extravagant” politician in Pakistan, Ahmed said “every contact has ended” between the ruling PML-Q and Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party.

Bhutto said that though Musharraf has accepted the PPP’s demand for holding the election in January as scheduled, he has not delivered on other pledges.

Stating that fair and transparent polls are not possible in a state of emergency, she said, “It is very difficult for us to participate in the elections with our hands tied. It is difficult for us to participate in polls without a level playing field.”

She also demanded the lifting of the emergency and the reinstatement of deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and all other judges who did not endorse the Provincial Constitutional Order (PCO).

Earlier, stepping up pressure on Musharraf, several key opposition parties announced a boycott of the planned polls if they are held under emergency rule, saying the elections will be a sham unless the General lifts the curbs.

The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of exiled former premier Nawaz Sharif, Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehreek-i-Insaaf of cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan have decided not to take part in elections held under emergency and vowed to resist such polls, which, Musharraf said yesterday, will be held by January nine. — PTI

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Civilian trials by military courts
Draconian: Jahangir
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The chairperson of the Human Right Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir, in detention in Lahore since the imposition of “emergency plus”, has criticised the latest act of granting military courts jurisdiction to try civilians.

In a statement released here by the HRCP, Asma said this new law to try offences ranging from murder to libel was an expression of the government’s own lack of confidence in its selected PCO judges.

“The onslaught on courts was not because they were obstructing trial of terrorists but because they dared to give relief in some cases. There is little doubt that the Musharraf regime is in no mood to change its course. They want absolute power. They will tolerate no dissent and will continue to use the terrorist card to keep the international community at bay. How long will the bluff and a state of self-denial work?” she asks.

Refusing to be cowed down even in detention, she says that the amendments to the Army Act were alarming. These amendments give wide powers to military courts to try civilians for a number of offences, including holding the view that the citizens of Pakistan comprise more than one nationality.

“Antiquated laws that had lost their teeth through judicial reviews are now being resurrected and made punishable by the military. Trials will not be open to public hearings; lawyers will only be allowed to represent the accused in the capacity of a friend. Investigation will be carried out by military personnel and ordinary rules of evidence will not apply,” she adds.

In the past offences under the Prevention of Anti-National Activities Act were tried by a specially constituted tribunal, headed by a judge of the High Court. The presiding judge was appointed in consultation with the Chief Justice of that court.

The Anti-National Activities Act as well as several other offences, now to be tried by military courts, remained controversial. Lawyers and leaders of civil society vehemently denounced them for being oppressive.

“The government had powers to detain any person under the Security of Pakistan Act, 1952 but a review board consisting of judges of the supreme and high courts examined the grounds of such detention.

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