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  • » 11/12/2007, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Musharraf imposes martial law, not a state of emergency

    Qaiser Felix

    The president of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission makes the charges, stressing the unconstitutionality of the action and how it violates the population’s human rights. Bhutto ends power-sharing talks with the general.

    Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Yesterday’s promulgation of the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Ordinance, revising the 1952 Pakistan Army Act shows without a doubt that the country is under martial law, not in a ‘state of emergency’ as Musharraf stated earlier in the month, Asma Jahangir, head of the Human Rights commission of Pakistan (HRCP), told AsiaNews.

    Like hundreds of other human rights activists and opposition militants, Ms Jahangir has been under house arrest since the start of the crisis, all paying a price for their opposition to the direction the general president is taking the country.

    Under the new ordinance, the army is empowered to arrest, investigate and try civilians in a military court if they are found guilty of having committed a crime against the defence, security or armed forces of Pakistan, something so broadly defined that it can include almost anything.

    The new legal context limits the role of the courts. Trials will be in camera; lawyers will only be allowed to represent in the capacity of friend of the accused; ordinary rules of evidence will not apply.

    According to Ms Jahangir, the amendment is an alarming development and is a violation of both human rights and the constitution of Pakistan. It reintroduces laws adopted under the dictatorship of general Zia that the judiciary had disallowed over time—now the courts are powerless. 

    The rules adopted under the amendment cannot be compared to special anti-terrorism laws introduced in the United Kingdom and the United States. In both of these countries the judiciary is still sovereign and opposition members are not treated like enemies of the state as they are in Pakistan.

    In order to placate the growing opposition President Musharraf has promised to hold elections by January 9. But this has not satisfied Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party.

    Ms Bhutto announced that power-sharing talks were over and that elections could not be free and fair if they were held under emergency rule.

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    See also

    19/08/2008 PAKISTAN
    People celebrate as war in the north and the economy worry post-Musharraf Pakistan
    As the dictatorship end (almost) painlessly, people hand out sweets and release balloons. Rhetoric aside the government must now tackle real problems like the radical Islamist revolt in the north, the high number of displaced people and unemployment.

    31/12/2007 PAKISTAN
    Delay “expected” in Pakistan Election
    A ruling party spokesman proposes postponing the poll. Election Commission will announce its decision tomorrow. The Pakistan People’s Party appoints Ms Bhutto’s son as her official successor, says it is ready for the 8 January poll. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan accuses Musharraf of involvement in the assassination, calls on the United Nations to conduct an independent inquiry.

    22/11/2007 PAKISTAN
    Supreme Court upholds Musharraf’s election
    The justices, appointed after the state of emergency came into effect, have rejected all appeals against the general’s election. His resignation as army chief should come shortly. Nawaz Sharif is expected to return and run in the 8 January elections.

    30/11/2007 PAKISTAN
    Musharraf announces end to the state of emergency
    In his first address to the nation as a civilian president, Musharraf announces that the state of emergency will be lifted on 16 December. Washington praises the decision whilst Pakistan’s pro-democracy parties say they will boycott upcoming elections.

    06/11/2007 PAKISTAN
    Judge Chaudhry calls for a popular “uprising”
    Sacked Chief justice calls on Pakistanis to take to the streets in protest. Despite the crackdown demonstrations against the state of emergency continue. About one lawyer in four has been placed under arrest. Government makes vague pledges about the upcoming scheduled parliamentary elections. United states calls on Musharraf to quit as army chief. Minorities warn that by his actions the president is weakening the moderates and strengthening the extremists.



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