Gulf Daily News : World is watching

Monday, November 05, 2007

World is watching

November 6, 2007

ISLAMABAD: US urged Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to restore democracy as quickly as possible and give up military post. Whereas, Britain told Pakistan to scrap its decision to impose emergency rule and hold elections in January as scheduled, saying it faces a "defining moment" in its history.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the world was watching.

"We would like to see elections on schedule in January and we do want to see the restoration of the normal democratic and constitutional process," said Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman.

US President George W Bush called for a quick return to civilian rule and the release of detainees. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Musharraf to underscore US opposition to his decision, a senior US official said, adding, she had made clear that the US was deeply disappointed in the move.

Pakistan said yesterday it would hold a national election by mid-January.

Musharraf has detained thousands of people including hundreds of lawyers and opposition politicians. Police used teargas against stone-throwing lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore, and wielded batons to break up another protest by dozens outside the High Court in Karachi.

Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum said, "It has been decided there would be no delay and elections will be held within the next 60 days." Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said cases before the Supreme Court, including challenges to Musharraf's re-election, had to be concluded before a parliamentary election.

Several hundred lawyers, chanting "Go Musharraf Go!" and "The dictator is unacceptable!", protested outside the lower courts in Islamabad until police broke them up by force.

Many judges were held incommunicado at their homes after refusing to back emergency rule. Among them was dismissed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who said, "It is the duty of all citizens of the country and lawyers in particular to continue their struggle for the supremacy of the constitution.

Former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto yesterday condemned a police crackdown on lawyers and called for elections as planned in January.

"Musharraf should fulfil his promise to remove his uniform, which he made to the Supreme Court and that he made when he was having dialogue with us," she added.

Amnesty International called for an immediate return to constitutional rule and the release of hundreds of detainees.

Meanwhile, a crowd of some 80 demonstrators staged a noisy protest outside the Pakistan High Commission in London, calling for the constitution to be restored.

Washington and Islamabad will keep up joint military operations along the border with Afghanistan despite the turmoil rocking Pakistan, US defence officials said.

The Netherlands has suspended aid to Pakistan. It had budgeted some 15 million euros (BD8.3m) for this year and more than 12m euros (BD6.6m) has already been spent. The remainder is now suspended. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday that he had warned Musharraf he could not support his decision to put the country under emergency rule. UN human rights chief Louise Arbour sharply criticised the emergency and the imprisonment of judges and politicians.

Separate bombs planted on roadsides hit two military vehicles in northwest Pakistan yesterday, killing one soldier and wounding two others, officials said.