Musharraf lifts emergency rule in Pakistan

Zeeshan Haider
Reuters
Saturday December 15, 2007

President Pervez Musharraf lifted emergency rule in Pakistan and restored the constitution on Saturday, in a move Western nations hope will stabilize the nuclear-armed state as Islamic militant violence spirals.

But critics say curbs on the media and a purged judiciary will remain in place and Musharraf can still manipulate a January 8 general election victory for his parliamentary allies and secure a power base despite his unpopularity.

"We consider the lifting of the state of emergency an important step forward," opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto told reporters in the southwestern city of Quetta soon after the end of the emergency was announced.

"But more needs to be done for the restoration of democracy."

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Citing militant violence and a meddling judiciary, Musharraf imposed the emergency on November 3, suspended the constitution and purged the Supreme Court to fend off challenges to his re-election, which new hand-picked judges later rubber-stamped.

But he faced international condemnation for his actions, with Western countries worried he would only further polarize Pakistan and leave a vacuum that Islamic militants fighting an insurgency near the border with Afghanistan could fill.

Two soldiers and three civilians were killed near a Pakistani army camp by a suicide bomber on a bicycle on Saturday, underscoring a growing number of insurgent attacks this year in which hundreds of people have been killed.

Musharraf, who will address the nation on TV and radio on Saturday night, took fresh oaths of office from the Supreme Court judges appointed after he imposed the emergency.

Full article here.

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