Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of Emergency on Saturday evening and told Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry his services were no longer required, suspended the Constitution and issued a new provisional constitution order.
He blamed a wave of Islamic militancy and “interference” by Pakistan’s judiciary for the imposition of Emergency rule, a copy of the order said.
The order says that there had been a “visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks”. “Some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism, thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its action to control this menace,” it added.
It said a situation has arisen where the government could not carry on in accordance with the Constitution, as it provides no solution for the situation, and there is no way out except through extraordinary measures.
<b1>The Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and eight other judges refused to endorse the provisional constitutional order issued by the president. Some judges were still inside the Court building when reports last came in. It is for the second time that Gen. Musharraf has chosen to suspend the constitution and assume extraordinary powers in his capacity as Army Chief. The first time was in October 1999.
On Saturday evening, private TV channels went off air, causing confusion and panic across the country. Telephone lines were jammed as people tried to find out what the state of affairs were. "This was the first indication that something was wrong," said Sajid Hussain, a private banker.
However, major cities remained peaceful, there was no movement of military vehicles or personnel. There were no protests either from anywhere and traffic remained normal for most of the day.
High-level meetings were being chaired in different cities to formulate a strategy to prevent untoward incidents, but officials said that such meeting were precautionary in nature as no such incident had been reported.
<b2>“It was something that was expected and we were half prepared for it,” commented political analyst Syed Jawaid Iqbal. He said that the recent terror attacks in different parts of the country had shaken the country and there was a growing sense that the government "must fight back."
However, the extent to which the government is preparing to fight back was still unclear. Local TV channel Geo TV said that initially there was the sense that the government was restricting the functions of the media and the judiciary. “We are unsure of where this is heading,” commented local journalist Sabihuddin Ghausi. Ghausi said that Pakistan has seen the imposition of emergency "a number of times in the past" so there was not so much panic amongst the people.
However, federal minister Shaikh Rashid earlier said this was “emergency plus”, indicating that this was more than a usual imposition of emergency in the country.