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Emergency in Pak? Conditions ripe: Information minister
K J M Varma in Islamabad
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August 09, 2007 00:19 IST
Last Updated: August 09, 2007 01:44 IST

Speculation was rife in Islamabad on Wednesday night that emergency might be imposed in Pakistan at any time in the wake of the volatile situation in the country's north-western parts bordering Afghanistan, infested by Taliban and Al Qaeda [Images] militants, after a senior minister said the condition was ripe for the measure.

Minister of State for Information Tariq Azim told private Geo television channel that the condition was ripe for emergency and the government is seriously considering the measure, which however has not been imposed so far.

Azim's remarks about emergency came after President Pervez Musharraf [Images] held a series of high-level meetings through the day on Wednesday discussing the option of using the measure.

Musharraf is reported to have put off his decision to clamp emergency till Thursday, Geo TV announced.

While continued attacks by militants and threats by the US to carry out direct attacks on tribal areas in north-western part of the country, were being cited for possible imposition of emergency, the move is being considered ahead of the Supreme Court taking up the petitions of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz to return home from forced exile.

Geo TV earlier reported quoting unnamed sources that a high-level meeting presided by Musharraf decided to declare emergency in the country for one month that could be extended upto three months.

The meeting reviewed the current political situation and various options regarding changes in the political set up came under discussion, it said.

Pakistan Muslim League president Chaudhry Shujaat also reportedly told women parliamentarians of the party during a reception hosted by him at his residence that emergency is likely to be declared, the channel said.

The speaker of the National Assembly was also called at the reception in which he was consulted regarding in the case of an emergency how it could be approved by the National Assembly.

Pakistan Tribune Web site said Musharraf was consulting his associates and legal experts about emergency.

It said some of his associates advised him to go for limited emergency.

However, the biggest worry for Musharraf is the sharp reaction that could come from lawyers who had waged a strident anti-government agitation pressing for withdrawal of suspension of Mohammed Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice.

Musharraf is also taking into account the response of the opposition parties, the portal said adding, Attorney General Malik Qayyum and legal expert Sharifuddin Pirzada have already met the president and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Azim pointed to the threat to carry out direct attacks on tribal areas against the Al Qaeda and the serious situation there with persistent attacks on Pakistani troops by suspected pro-Taliban mlitants.

He also pointed to the attacks against the nationals of China, a close ally of Pakistan.

Speculation mounted after Musharraf cancelled at the last minute his proposed visit to Kabul to take part in the
Pakistan-Afghan tribal jirga to start on Thursday.

Prominent lawyer Aitzaz Ahesan, who defended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry leading to his reinstatement, said
the conditions in Pakistan did not warrant the imposition of emergency.

"Emergency, if at all imposed, should be imposed by an act of Parliament," he said adding, any such move by Musharraf will be opposed by lawyers and challenged in the Supreme Court.

Self-exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [Images] said that any attempt to impose Emergency will be deemed as a "negative" step.

"It will be retrograde step for efforts to restore democracy in Pakistan," she said.

Abdul Qayyum said he was not aware of any attempt to impose a state of emergency and he believed that the situation did not warrant it.

Even if it is imposed, it would not affect Musharraf's plan to get re-elected as president between September 15 and October 15 by the present Assemblies, he said.

Emergency was imposed in Pakistan in 1998 in the aftermath of the tit-for-tat nuclear tests carried out by Pakistan in response to Indian nuclear tests.

The then president Rafiq Tarar on the recommendation of the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had imposed emergency during which all fundamental rights were suspended.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999 and imposed martial law.

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