Musharraf Ends Pakistan State Of Emergency

Pakistani police stand guard at the entrance to the Presidential Palace in Islamabad, Pakistan, shortly after the state of emergency was lifted Dec. 15, 2007. President Pervez Musharraf lifted Pakistan's six-week-old state of emergency and restored the constitution Saturday, easing a crackdown that has enraged opponents and worried Western supporters. AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

This article was written by Farhan Bokhari
Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf on Saturday lifted emergency rule across the south Asian country, bringing an end to a controversial six week period since a state of emergency was imposed on November 3rd.

"Fundamental rights and personal liberties now stand restored. The state of emergency has ended formally," a senior government official told CBS News on the condition of anonymity. A formal announcement was expected later in the day and Musharraf was expected to make a televised address to the nation Saturday evening.

The lifting of emergency rule is meant to gain international acceptability from a number of key western countries which support Pakistan, including the U.S. The Bush administration has repeatedly urged Musharraf to lift emergency rule well ahead of parliamentary elections due on January 8th. Under emergency laws, political parties were banned from holding public gatherings, while personal freedoms such as the right to free speech were also suspended.

But lifting of emergency rule does not immediately end the controversies surrounding Pakistan's president, a key pro-U.S. ruler in the war on terror. Among a series of amendments to the Pakistani constitution, one was designed to legitimize Musharraf's actions during the period of emergency rule. Retired Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, a former chief justice of Pakistan's supreme court, warned in an interview on the independent DAWN NEWS TV channel, "Amendments to the constitution can only be made by the parliament, not by an individual."

Analysts cautioned that ending the state of emergency will not bring an end to the growing uncertainty surrounding Musharraf as he faces opponents, ranging from the community of lawyers and civil activists to journalists. In March of this year, Musharraf began a futile battle with the former chief justice of the supreme court, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was suspended on vague charges of misconduct.

In July, Chaudhry was restored back as chief justice of the supreme court in a landmark decision by the supreme court, successfully ending his challenge to the earlier suspension order. Chaudhary was again removed as chief justice, within hours of the imposition of emergency rule, in a development that has sparked stiff opposition from many lawyers. Meanwhile, protests by journalists have mounted as they have opposed the government's measures during the emergency rule period to tighten curbs around Pakistan's increasingly vocal private TV channels.

"President Musharraf is so surrounded by critics that it is hard to imagine that he will be able to stabilize the situation for himself," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a widely respected political commentator in a CBS News interview. Rizvi warned that President Musharraf's opponents may feel inspired to renew their protests "after emergency is lifted and people feel that their rights are more assured".

On Saturday, just hours before the emergency rule was lifted, a suicide bomber attacked a Pakistani military camp in the volatile north west frontier province less than two hours driving distance north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Two soldiers and three civilians, including the suicide bomber, were killed while at least five others were wounded.

This latest suicide attack revived fears over Pakistan's worsening internal security conditions following a record number of suicide attacks this year. No one claimed responsibility but Pakistani security officials said the attack was more than likely to be the work of local militant outfits linked to 'Al Qaeda' which appear to be dedicated to destabilizing the country in retaliation for its support to the U.S. led war on terror.

A senior western diplomat based in Islamabad commenting on the lifting of emergency rule warned that the controversies surrounding president Musharraf were far from over.

"Politically, Pakistan under President Musharraf has lived in a grey area. Musharraf's position is not only controversial given his actions but he also has many opponents who will not relent in opposing him," said the diplomat who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.
  • CBSNews