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October 15, 1999
Many worrying questions haunt Pak
Scott McDonald in Islamabad
The Pakistan military's declaration of an emergency and suspension of the constitution raised many worrying questions about the future political and economic direction of the country, diplomats said today.
''They have not said much about the future,'' said one Western diplomat based in Islamabad.
He said two statements released by the military did not say for how long the constitution would be suspended or when possible elections would be held.
''It might be for a short period, or it might be for a long period, we don't know. It does not cut out the possibility of civilian rule at some point, we just don't know when,'' he said.
''They have not said no to that (civilian rule) but we had hoped there would be a pointer in that direction.''
World leaders have issued a stream of calls since the coup which overthrew Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief on Tuesday, urging the military to restore democracy and hold elections as soon as possible.
In a statement released shortly after midnight, the army said, ''The Constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance'' and ''the whole of Pakistan will come under the control of the armed forces of Pakistan''.
It also said coup leader army chief General Pervez Musharraf had become 'chief executive' of Pakistan and that the prime minister, all federal ministers, provincial governors and chief ministers 'shall cease to hold office'.
''But I don't think it means they had their heads in the sand (to Western demands). They have not used the words martial law or military coup in their statements,'' the diplomat said.
Diplomats said there were other questions - including what plans the military rulers had for the economy, which has been struggling to find its feet for more than one year since being hit by sanctions in the wake of Pakistan's nuclear tests in May 1998.
The military would also have to reassure international donors already reluctant to help because of worries that restructuring programmes were not being implemented.
Another diplomat said the military was looking at just the immediate situation and had not appeared to plan for the longer term.
''Something is wrong here, they are reacting almost like Sharief,'' he said. Sharief has been heavily criticised for his management of the economy and strong-arm tactics against political opponents.
''They pulled off the coup, but there are questions about what they can do after that,'' he said.
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