Emergency in Pakistan to end on 15 december, says official

Emergency in Pakistan to end on 15 december, says official

Islamabad: President Pervez Musharraf will lift Pakistan’s state of emergency on 15 December only after changing the constitution to ensure that he cannot be hauled before a court, informed a senior official.

Musharraf purged the judiciary, jailed thousands of opponents and silenced television news channels after he suspended the constitution and declared emergency rule on 3 November.

The US backed leader said he acted to prevent political chaos and give authorities a free hand against Islamic militants, though critics accuse him of a last-ditch power grab before the previous Supreme Court could declare his continued rule illegal.

On 13 December, Malik Mohammed Qayyum, attorney general said that the president, who has acknowledged that he breached the constitution, will amend the charter to protect his decisions from legal challenges.

Qayyum said legal experts of the government were finalizing the changes and that they would be announced before Musharraf lifts the emergency on 15 December, but provided no details.

“The president will lift the emergency to restore the constitution and the fundamental rights," he said.

Qayyum’s comments came a day after Nisar Memon, information minister of Pakistan, rejected claims that the government was trying to stifle the media ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists accused the government of “an attempt to silence the free media" by ordering TV stations to stop airing live coverage of political debate.

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued a letter addressed to all satellite TV channels, saying some were still airing live coverage and taking live telephone calls which contain baseless propaganda against Pakistan and incite people to violence.

The letter warned that the channels could be taken off the air and those responsible jailed for up to three years and fined up to Rs1 crore.

“Every one of us in Pakistan should share the responsibility and work for betterment of the country by keeping the environment conducive for the polls," Memon said.

The threat could dissuade networks from covering fiery speeches of opposition leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, two former prime ministers who recently returned from years of living in exile.