The spectre of emergency rule receded in Pakistan on Thursday as it is believed that President Pervez Musharraf stepped back from doing so following US pressure to not go ahead. US Secretary of State, Condolleeza Rice, made a telephone call to General Musharraf in the early hours of Thursday, which seem to have changed the President’s mind, say observers.
A government spokesman said there was pressure on Gen Musharraf to declare an emergency but that he had decided not to because he was “committed to democracy”. Earlier reports said the issue was being discussed because of external and internal threats to the country.
On Wednesday, Gen Musharraf abruptly called off a key visit to Afghanistan. There were widespread reports that emergency could be imposed on Thursday. These rumours started surfacing on Wednesday night. However, by Thursday, the government strongly contradicted the possibility.
"No state of emergency is being imposed in Pakistan," Federal Minister for Information Mohammad Ali Durrani told Pakistan television.
But there is also confirmation that the move was being considered. "He was being ill advised by some people. He has decided against declaring the emergency. Elections are the president's priority," Mr Durrani said.
Opposition and media figures said the suggestion of emergency rule was related to Gen Musharraf’s desire to be re-elected for another term as both president and head of the army.
Junior Information Minister Tariq Azeem said US threats to launch an operation in the tribal areas and the recent targeting of Chinese nationals by Islamic militants had played a role in the implementation of emergency being discussed. “In addition, the situation on the borders and the suicide attacks are also a concern,” Azeem added.
Emergency would have let the president postpone national elections due to be held later in 2007, which could have enabled him to continue in his role as chief of Pakistan's powerful military.
Opposition political parties, like Pakistan's largest party, the PPP, want Gen Musharraf to give up the role.
Chief Justice angry
In Islamabad, the Supreme Court expressed anger at the government for not allowing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother return home despite an earlier order .
Admitting petitions of Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz seeking permission to return, a two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry issued notices to the government. The court has posted the matter for hearing on August 16.