Australia voices concern over emergency in Pakistan

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Sydney, Nov 5 (UNI) Australian Prime Minister John Howard called Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last night, urging the military ruler to show restraint in a ''difficult situation''.

''[ I told him] Australia could not support any extra constitutional behaviour, that the rule of law had to prevail and that I hoped there would be an early return to a more democratic path,'' the official Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Prime Minister Howard as telling the Pakistan President.

Gen Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday, citing deteriorating law and order situation and a hostile judiciary as the prime reasons for the move.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer also voiced his concerns to Pakistan High Commissioner to Australia about the effect the crisis will have on Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

He said he was worried that the ''instability'' will encourage Taliban and Al Qaeda elements in Pakistan's restive north west region, which according to him is a ''source'' of Afghanistan's troubles.

''We've had two killed recently, we've had another injured very recently, we had others injured over a period of time.

''A lot of the support for the Taliban is coming out of Pakistan and we need a stable Pakistan and we need more to be done to counter terrorism in Pakistan,'' he said.

However, Mr Downer said Australia would not consider withdrawing aid because it helps fight terrorism.

''We don't want to withdraw aid that might be helping to stabilise the country,'' he quipped.


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