Sunday, November 4, 2007


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday declared a state of emergency and replaced the nation’s top judge, saying the judiciary was interfering with the government and that Islamic militancy posed a grave threat.

Troops and police surrounded the Supreme Court in Islamabad, which had been due in the coming days to give a verdict on the legality of the military ruler’s victory in the October 6 presidential election.

The government replaced Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a thorn in the government’s side since Gen. Musharraf’s botched bid to sack him earlier this year, by Hameed Dogar.

Later in the night, Gen. Musharraf in an address to the nation said he imposed the emergency to maintain national unity in the face of “serious internal strife.” Terrorism in Pakistan had reached an extreme level and extremists had challenged the writ of the government. If tough and uncomfortable decisions were not taken now, Pakistan might plunge into a crisis.

Mr. Justice Chaudhry and other judges drove out the court building in a convoy under police escort hours after the emergency was declared.

“Justice Hameed Dogar was administered the oath as Chief Justice by President Pervez Musharraf under the new provisional constitutional order,” the government spokesman said.

The government also appointed new Chief Justices for the Sindh, Lahore and Balochistan High Courts.

Justice Abdul Mohammed Somroo has been appointed the new Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court while Justice Amanula Yasim Zai will be the new Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court, the state-run PTV reported.

Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry has been appointed the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court.

The former Premier, Benazir Bhutto, who warned earlier this week that the opposition would never accept the imposition of an emergency, has returned to Pakistan from Dubai.

The Supreme Court earlier ordered the suspension of emergency rule, which puts the nuclear-armed Islamic republic’s constitution on hold, but the government rejected the move.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Gen. Musharraf’s decision to declare emergency “very regrettable,” in comments broadcast on CNN.

Nawaz Sharif, the former Premier, condemned the emergency and called upon Gen. Musharraf to step down.

All land and mobile telephone lines went down shortly after the declaration, while private TV channels were taken off the air as tension gripped the capital.

Gen. Musharraf has been at loggerheads with the Supreme Court since his bid to sack Mr. Justice Chaudhry, in March. — Agencies

No comments :