“I am very worried and angry – Musharraf should realise that we don’t need him”
Avas, Islamabad, Pakistan
He cited growing extremism, increasing lawlessness and an “interfering judiciary” as some of the reasons behind his extraordinary step.
“Not acting now would have been suicidal for Pakistan,” said Musharraf.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, called the decision to declare a state of emergency “very regrettable”.
Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, said the emergency declaration “does not impact [US] military support of Pakistan” or its efforts in the “war on terror”.
Musharraf, who is also chief of the army staff, issued a provisional constitutional order declaring emergency.
Chaudhry and eight other judges of the supreme court refused to endorse the order, but Musharraf’s government rejected their ruling.
Chaudhry has been placed under house arrest.
Private Geo TV reported the arrest of Aitzaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a lawyer for Chaudhry in the case that led to his reinstatement in July.
There have been several other arrests across the country, including that of Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician; Asma Jehagir, chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; and Javed Hashmi, the acting president of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) party of Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister.
Sharif, who is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia, said Pakistan was heading towards anarchy and described Musharraf’s decision to invoke emergency as worse than martial law.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Jedda, he said the imposition of emergency was unprecedented and that it was done by Musharraf to pre-empt a possible adverse supreme court ruling on his eligibility to be re-elected as president.
The ruling was expected in a matter of days.
Sharif said: “The country is in the hands now of one single man who has no respect for its fate.
“He has no respect for the constitution, he has no respect for the judiciary, he has no repsect for the law of the land.
“He is doing this to perpetuate his rule – I would say mis-rule.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ahsan Iqbal, a Sharif ally, said: “Musharraf’s speech on Saturday night was like a charge-sheet against himself. He has been in charge of the country for the last eight years, so who has brought the country to the brink of destabilisation?”
Benazir Bhutto, another prime minister, has returned to the country from Dubai where she had gone to visit her family.
Bhutto on Saturday urged world leaders to put pressure on Musharraf to reverse his decision “so that we can hold fair free and impartial elections”.
|Soldiers had the supreme court in Islamabad
surrounded on Sunday morning [AFP]
“We very much want elections to be held on schedule but unless the constitution provisions that have been suspended are restored it’s going to be very difficult to have fair elections,” she said.
She described the imposition of emergency as a “mini-martial law”.
However, Malik Mohammed Qayyum, the attorney-general, said: “There is no martial law in the country. Only a state of emergency has been declared.
“The civilian government will continue to function.”
Witnesses said paramilitary troops had been deployed at state-run television and radio stations.
Transmissions by TV networks, other than state-controlled Pakistan TV, remained off the air in major cities on Sunday morning.
Under emergency rule, Musharraf has banned the media from publishing anything that defamed, ridiculed or brought him, the armed forces or government into disrepute.
He also stopped media from carrying statements from Islamic groups or their pictures, the official state news agency, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
Residents said all telephone lines have been cut in the capital Islamabad.
Restrictions on media
Severe curbs have been imposed on the media and cable TVs taken off the air.
On Sunday morning, Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, speaking by phone from Islamabad, said: “Pakistanis are asking a lot of questions and are seeking the media for answers, asking questions about the arrests. The security forces still blocking most of the main roads.”
Pakistani lawyers called for a countrywide strike on Monday against the imposition of emergency rule, a leading lawyer said.
“We are launching our struggle from tomorrow. Lawyers will be observing a strike tomorrow. We will be holding protests and boycotting courts,” Hamid Ali Khan, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said on Sunday.
Kamal Hyder, reporting for Al Jazeera from Islamabad, said the imposition of emergency rule would dismay Pakistanis.
“Instead what they will see is more draconian measures from a government which is losing support among ordinary people and the legal fraternity.”