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At last minute, Pakistan rejects emergency rule

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was on the brink of declaring a state of emergency in his increasingly volatile country but backed away after a gathering storm of media, political and diplomatic pressure, Pakistani officials acknowledged on Thursday, August 9. 

(New York Times News Service)  ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was on the brink of declaring a state of emergency in his increasingly volatile country but backed away after a gathering storm of media, political and diplomatic pressure, Pakistani officials acknowledged on Thursday, August 9.{mxc}

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Musharraf about 2 a.m. Thursday in Pakistan, the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said. Bush administration officials refused to discuss in public what was said, but one Pakistani official said Rice exhorted Musharraf not to declare emergency rule. The conversation lasted about 15 minutes.

"She thought it was an opportune moment to talk about a couple of things," McCormack said without elaborating.

By the time of the conversation, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Information, Tariq Azim Khan, had said that Musharraf was not ruling out declaring an emergency, which would allow him sweeping powers to restrict freedom of movement and assembly, to suspend Parliament and to curtail the activities of the courts. Such a step, officials in Washington fear, would further inflame the region and open the Bush administration to additional criticism from democracy advocates who say it has already been too willing to turn a blind eye toward Musharraf’s failure to restore civilian rule.

In Pakistan, opponents of emergency rule, some inside the government, warned that it would push the country into deeper crisis, as the opposition parties, the judiciary, lawyers and civil society would react strongly against it.

"I fear the whole system will collapse and the country will plunge into a period of turmoil," said one minister, warning of moves to impose emergency rule.

Musharraf told political supporters in Karachi this week that he would stand for re-election by the national and provincial assemblies as early as Sept. 15. But the public mood has soured on the general since he tried to dismiss the chief justice five months ago. The move set off nationwide protests and was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Opposition parties now seem poised to use the court to bring constitutional challenges against Musharraf’s continued rule, particularly his holding dual positions as president and Army chief of staff.

Amid such political uncertainty, some of Musharraf’s supporters had urged him to take greater control in the form of extraordinary powers.

 

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