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Pakistan Tightens Emergency Rule

  • VOA News

Pakistan tightened emergency ruleSunday) rounding up hundreds of opposition figures and warning of a possible delay in elections set for mid-January.

During a news conference, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the government is committed to holding general elections. But he added the parliament could take up to one year to decide when to hold the ballot.

Some 500 opposition leaders, activists and lawyers have been detained across the country. Among them are Javed Hashmi, the acting president of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party, and cricket-star turned opposition politician, Imran Khan.

Troops and police patrolled the streets of the capital, Islamabad, and barricades have been set up around the parliament and Supreme Court. Phone service, which had been cut earlier, has been restored. But a blackout of independent broadcasters continues.

President Musharraf justified imposing emergency rule and suspending the constitution on Saturday by saying he could not allow Pakistan to "commit suicide." He said he acted because of rising Islamic militancy and judicial activism that he said was paralyzing the government.

General Musharraf disbanded the Supreme Court. Its chief justice, one of the president's most prominent critics, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, was fired and detained.

The president's critics and foreign diplomats believe his motive was to prevent the Supreme Court from invalidating his October sixth re-election by parliament while still army chief.
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