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Shaukat Aziz refuses to give deadline for lifting of emergency

Written by: Staff

Islamabad, Nov 4 (UNI) Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz today refused to set a deadline for lifting of emergency from the country, saying emergency would remain enforced as long as it was required.

He was addressing a press conference here at the Prime Minister's house a day after President Pervez Musharraf proclaimed emergency in the country and issued the provinsional constitutional order, holding the 1973 constitution in abeyance.

''It is difficult to say how long it(emergency) will be there,'' he said against the backdrop of police raids at the residence of politicians and lawyers all over the country.

Over a dozen lawyers and politicians, including Khwaja Asif of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, Mehmud Khan Achakzai of Pakhtoonkhwa Mili Awami Party, Qadir Magsi of All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) and top lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan were detained by police in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

Prominent lawyers arrested by police included former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Munir A Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Tariq Mehmud and Ikram Chaudhry.

The Prime Minister, however, promised to keep duration of the emergency short, adding that the government was committed to complete the third phase of transition to democracy by holding parliamentary elections.

Parliamentary elections were due in Pakistan early next year and a code of conduct for holding free and fair polls was under consideration of the government before imposition of emergency.

''Life of assemblies is usually extended in case of emergency but we are deliberating on the issue within our party,'' Aziz said without confirming that elections would be held as per schedule in January.

While private TV channels remained off the air today, the government also issued a new decree late yesterday, introducing several curbs especially on electronic media and subjecting their operations under strict checks.

Police arrested at least six rights activists here when leading non-governmental organisations dealing with human rights tried to visit residence of the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The police also got tough with people and did not allow assembly of more than four persons at any place all over the capital city, though people remained busy in their routine activities. There was no restriction on public movement in any area except the constitution avenue which houses Supreme Court, presidency, parliament house and foreign ministry. Police erected barricades and barbed fires in the area, declared as high-security zone.

''Imposition of emergency and other extra-ordinary measures are aimed at ensuring effective governance, restoration of writ of the government, improvement in law and order and promotion of harmony among all states of the pillar,'' Aziz said while defending emergency and issuance of the PCO.

Meanwhile, the new chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar cancelled the list of cases finalised by the former top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Court officials said he will issue a new list.

The list also included hearings on petitions challenging Gen Musharraf's re-election and the one filed by Aitzaz Ahsan asking the court to refrain the government from taking any extra-constitutional measures.

A seven-member bench of the former judges had yesterday set aside the emergency and PCO minutes after government's announcement, urging the government, the President and the Prime Minister not to act on the PCO and take steps contrary to independence of judiciary.

However, when asked about the fate of 12 judges out of the total 17, who did not take oath under PCO and the status of the judgement issued by the seven-member bench headed by the former chief justice, Aziz said the order was passed when the seven judges had already ceased to function.

''Therefore, it is not really an order that can be implemented,'' he added.

Of 17 judges, only five have so far taken oath under the PCO.

According to the new chief justice, the judges, who were not invited for oath, ceased to function.


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