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After 9 yrs, Mush sheds uniform
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Emergency may go in 48 hours

Islamabad: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who quit as the Army Chief on Wednesday, is expected to end the Emergency he imposed earlier in November “within the next 48 hours”. Musharraf would make “major political announcements”, including the lifting of the Emergency and freeing of detained persons, while addressing the nation after being sworn in as a civilian ruler for a second presidential term on Thursday, Dawn News channel reported. — Agencies

President Gen Pervez Musharraf is poised to be sworn in as civilian President on Thursday after having shed his uniform but leaving the world guessing when he will lift the emergency.

Musharraf handed over traditional baton to his successor in the Army, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, at a special ceremony today with attorney general Qayyum Malik confirming that he will take oath under the 1973 constitution. It triggered speculations that an end to the emergency is in sight. Malik said he had no knowledge about that.

Analysts said the constitution being referred to by the government incorporates drastic amendment made by Musharraf. It includes the latest all embracing Article 270 AAA that endorses and indemnifies the emergency and all legislative and administrative actions taken by the General since November 3.

Political leaders and civil society activists generally welcomed that Musharraf has finally shed his uniform though most noted that he took so long to do that after having played havoc with state institutions. Pakistan Bar Council called for observing a black day on Thursday rejecting assumption of presidential office by Musharraf through a dubious election. They said Gen Musharraf has mutilated the constitution beyond recognition, purged the judiciary of independent judges and curb media freedom through draconian laws and coercive administrative actions.

Former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto who flew into Islamabad from Karachi on Wednesday, welcomed the change over in the Army but said she was in no hurry to accept Musharraf as a civilian leader.

“We welcome President Pervez Musharraf taking off his uniform and quitting the Army thus meeting one of our key demands,” Benazir Bhutto told reporters adding, “We are not in a hurry to accept Pervez Musharraf as a civilian president. We’ll take any decision in this regard after detailed deliberations keeping in view all the aspects involved.”

Imran Khan said Musharraf has bowed to popular pressure with great reluctance but only after strengthening his coercive hold on power by making sweeping constitutional amendments, destroying the judiciary and taming the media.

Musharraf’s western allies including the UK and the USA hailed the change but urged him to lift emergency and take other measures to ensure free and fair elections. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described his retirement from the Army as an “important part of the process” towards restoring democracy. But he asked him to follow up the move by ensuring that free and fair elections were held as planned. He said Musharraf has assured him that he wants to take steps to restore constitutional order.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said Musharraf’s resignation as army chief was a good first step but that he should now lift emergency rule.

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