Elections will be on time - Musharraf
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said elections
due this year will be held on time and ruled out imposing an emergency
to end the uproar over government moves to sack the countryâ€™s chief
The suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary on March 9 has
outraged lawyers, the opposition and many ordinary Pakistanis, and
presented Musharraf with his biggest political crisis since he seized
power in 1999.
The move against Chaudhary has fuelled suspicion Musharraf feared the
independent-minded judge would block any move by the president to retain
the role of army chief, which he is due to relinquish this year.
Protesting lawyers and opposition activists clashed with police in
the capital, Islamabad, and in Lahore last week. There were no
demonstrations in those cities on Monday but several hundred lawyers
marched in Karachi and lawyers across the country stopped work for an
hour in a token protest.
The government has not given details of the accusations against
Chaudhary but a state news agency cited â€śmisconduct and misuse of
authorityâ€ť. The accusations have been referred to a judicial panel that
will sit for the third time on Wednesday.
At least six judges resigned to show support for Chaudhary, judicial
officials said, and the leader of an opposition alliance of conservative
religious parties called for more protests.
Speaking on a television current affairs talk show that authorities
briefly banned last week for focusing on the Chaudhary case, Musharraf
said everything he had done had been within the constitution.
He said some mistakes had been made in handling the case, such as not
keeping the public better informed, and he warned political parties not
to try to take advantage of the situation.
â€śElections will be held on time. This is my assurance to the nation,â€ť
he said, referring to polls for the national and provincial assemblies.
Under the Pakistani system, parliament and provincial assemblies elect
the president. Musharraf, who is also army chief, dismissed speculation
an emergency might be declared: â€śI will never use the army.â€ť
Asked if he would keep his post as army chief, Musharraf said: â€śWe
will follow the constitution.â€ť He has previously said, under the
constitution, he was allowed to remain army chief and president until
the end of 2007.
The leader of the opposition Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance of
religious parties called for a protest outside the Supreme Court in
Islamabad on Wednesday when Chaudhary appears before the panel. â€śWe have
to intensify street protests,â€ť Qazi Hussain Ahmed, president of the
six-party alliance, told reporters.
Islamabad, Tuesday, Reuters