Pakistan Under State of Emergency
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Pakistan is under emergency rule. This morning, General Pervez Musharraf has suspended the country's constitution and deployed troops in the capital Islamabad. He's also replaced Pakistan's chief justice, and President Musharraf has blacked out the independent media that refuse to support him. Musharraf says that rising Islamic extremism forced him to take the emergency measures.
We'll speak with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a moment. But first, to correspondent Graham Usher, who is in Islamabad, for the latest.
Graham, first of all, what have you seen in Islamabad today? Is there any real(ph) visual impact of the emergency rule declaration?
Mr. GRAHAM USHER (Journalist): No. There's very little. Around the center of Islamabad, the judicial and political capital of Pakistan, there is still a heavy police cauldron and certain roads are closed off. But basically, elsewhere in the capital, it's pretty normal. Sunday is a holiday here, so most of the shops are closed anyway. But there's no evidence of martial law, which effectively is what Musharraf has imposed.
HANSEN: So why did Musharraf choose this moment, this weekend, to declare emergency rule? What's happened?
Mr. USHER: I think most people understand Musharraf's move because two or three days ago, he was told by his intelligence officers that the petitions against him is in the Supreme Court ruling against his right to be president of Pakistan or to contest presidential elections, which he won last month, would be thrown out by the Supreme Court.
In other words, they would declare him unconstitutional because it is unconstitutional for him to be elected president while remaining army chief-of-staff.
Now, in order to preempt that, he has declared emergency rule. He has suspended the constitution. He knew that the Supreme Court was about to rule his attempt to be president for another five-year term unconstitutional.
HANSEN: But Musharraf said that the declaration of emergency was to contain the spreading Islamic militancy in his country. Given that's the reason he gave, how might that declaration actually affect his ability to do so?
Mr. USHER: The strongest area of Taliban influence and Taliban militancy they are the tribal areas on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Now, these areas are already effectively under military control. Martial law or emergency does not give Musharraf any more powers in these areas than he has already. So the whole argument that he needs a martial law in order to combat the Taliban is spurious.
HANSEN: So what are you hearing about how the United States is responding to this? How Washington is responding to this since Pakistan is a key ally of the country in the fight against terrorism?
Mr. USHER: Well, probably, Condoleezza Rice has come out and said she sees the imposition of the emergency as highly regrettable. There have been condemnations from State Department's spokespeople, and they have said that they expect Musharraf to hold to his pledge, to hold free and fair elections in January of next year.
The United States may not be that happy about what Musharraf has done, but they are absolutely committed to him remaining in power in Pakistan because they believe only an army chief-of-staff or a president that has the loyalty of the army can combat the so-called war on terror.
And to some extent, they're right about that. No civilian politician could engage in the kind of operations Musharraf has taken against the Taliban in the tribal areas because these operations are deeply unpopular in Pakistan. I think Musharraf is fully aware at the moment that his position vis-a-vis the United States is that they need him more than he needs them.
HANSEN: Correspondent Graham Usher in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Mr. USHER: Thank you.
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