Musharraf lifts emergency in Pakistan, amends Constitution

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Islamabad, Dec 15 (UNI) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today lifted the emergency rule in the country, imposed on November 3 in the wake of political and judicial unrest and a spate of terrorist attacks, paving way for parliamentary elections on January 8.

The Cabinet Division issued a Presidential Order under which the state of emergency was revoked and the Provisional Constitution Order-2007 repealed with immediate effect.

With the issuance of the Presidential Order the Constitution has been revived.

President Musharraf had assured the nation that the state of emergency would be lifted before December 16, 2007. He will address the nation at 2000 hrs today, which would be broadcast live by state television and radio networks.

Before lifting the emergency, President Musharraf amended the constitution seeking to bar the judges sacked before the imposition of emergency rule from holding office, besides other measures mainly regarding the judiciary.

The move may trigger further harsh reactions from the lawyer community, which had been at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement against the former military ruler, but with the Opposition divided over boycotting the polls, being held under a caretaker administration handpicked by Gen (retd) Musharraf, the ruling alliance could feel relieved.

Though the participation of the two largest political parties-- PPP and PML-N headed by former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif respectively-- in the January 8 polls have dampened doubts about the legitimacy of the whole exercise, critics still believe that with sweeping powers still at his disposal and the backing of the military, President Musharraf and the ruling PML-Q could rig elections.

Exercising absolute powers as the chief of the army and political establishment, Gen (retd) Musharraf imposed emergency in the country, citing a hostile judiciary and deteriorating law and order situation as the prime causes for the move.

As a fallout, judges were sacked, restrictions were placed on the media and the country's Constitution was kept in abeyance. The timing of the imposition of emergency raised many an eyebrow as it came just a day before a full bench of the Supreme Court was to decide on petitions challenging his two offices and re-election as the President.

Soon after the emergency rule was imposed, handpicked judges, who were sworn-in under the Provincial Constitutional Order, cleared Gen Musharraf's second term as the President. But mounting international pressure made the military ruler commit to restore democracy and step down as military chief.

In the first step towards what he called the ''final transition'', Gen Musharraf handed over the reins of the Army to old confidante and former ISI chief Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani on November 28.

Gen Musharraf became the second longest serving army chief after Gen Zia-ul Haq.

He allowed former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return from exile. Ms Bhutto returned on October 18 with her homecoming marred by a suicide attack while Mr Sharif was deported to Saudi Arabia on his first attempt in September. The PML-N leader could finally return to the country on November 25 only after a secret meeting between Gen Musharraf and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Mr Sharif, whose government was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1999 by Gen Musharraf, first decided to boycott elections remaining with the opposition conglomerate APDM but later when dissensions arose in the group announced to participate in the polls.

The country is facing a string of suicide attacks specifically targeting the military as off late a majority of them occurred in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. A wave of terrorist strikes swept across the country ever since para military forces swooped on holed up religious extremists in the radical Lal Masjid in the heart of the Federal Capital.

UNI

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