Fresh fears of an Emergency being imposed in Pakistan have resurfaced following repeated warnings delivered by President Pervez Musharraf to Benazir Bhutto to defer her much publicised, forthcoming visit to the country, scheduled for October 18.
Benazir has refused to heed the president, declaring she would return just as she had planned.
Pakistan’s supreme court has to give its decision on a petition filed by a retired judge, Wajihuddin, a defeated candidate in the October 6 presidential election, challenging the very acceptance of Musharraf’s nomination papers by Pakistan’s election commission. Musharraf had won the election by an overwhelming margin.
The hearings will resume on October 17, a day before Benazir’s impending arrival.
Musharraf’s warnings have led to speculation that an Emergency may be on the anvil, if the court rules his election as invalid.
“I fear an emergency or some other extreme measures,” said journalist Tahir Hasan. In such a case, the political scenario will change overnight and Benazir may not be welcome any more.
Meanwhile, Karachi is awash with buntings and posters to welcome Bhutto. “About 1 million people will converge in the city on that day,” said Sherry Rehman, information secretary of the Pakistan Peoples Party. “There is no question of her not returning,” Rehman added.
The police, for its part, is scared of a terrorist attack. Police officials say that the mammoth movement of people and cars is an ideal target for a suicide bombing. A number of bullet proof cars have already been imported by party followers for Benazir. For her arrival, the police have built a container like vehicle which will have in it a room as well as a large stage on top. This will carry the PPP leader from the airport to the city centre.