U.S. to Review Aid to Pakistan

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Bush administration will review its financial assistance to Pakistan. The announcement comes one day after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule and suspended the nation's constitution.

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A day after declaring a state of emergency, Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf set about enforcing it. His security services detained hundreds of opposition activists and private TV news channels were kept off the air. The country's prime minister now says it maybe up to a year before elections are held, much to the annoyance of the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. is reviewing aid to Pakistan.

NPR's Philip Reeves is in Islamabad and begins our coverage.

PHILIP REEVES: Many of Musharraf's opponents were detained today as the general moved to silence his critics: politicians, human rights activists, lawyers. But some remained at liberty and were still willing to speak out.

Babar Awan is a senior member of the Pakistan People's Party led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He's also a lawyer at Pakistan's Supreme Court -the court whose defiance of Musharraf's government played a large part in prompting the general to introduce what many here say is, in fact, martial law.

The chief justice has now been sacked and Awan says most of the rest of the Supreme Court judges are refusing orders to take a new oath of allegiance.

Mr. BABAR AWAN (Member, Central Executive Committee, Pakistan People's Party): Thirteen out of 17. Yeah, the entire Supreme Court have shown its guts to stand against the dictatorial decision made by General Musharraf.

REEVES: Awan says this is evidence Pakistanis are not going to accept Musharraf's decision to suspend the constitution and with it all of their civil rights. He expects a leading role will be played by Pakistan's lawyers, the same people who for months campaigned against Musharraf's efforts to throw out the chief justice earlier this year.

Mr. AWAN: You will see the phenomenal resistance which has started that you are going to see and watch.

REEVES: Today there was little evidence of this resistance in Islamabad. The streets were calm and looked much the same as usual, although, scores of paramilitary forces blocked off the Supreme Court and parliament.

(Soundbite of demonstration)

REEVES: But a handful of protestors made their feelings felt. Among them was Farzana Bari, a university professor and human rights activist. The demonstration in which she took part was tiny, and yet still the police broke it up.

Professor FARZANA BARI (Director, Women Studies Center, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad): I think they're trying to terrorize people, you know? And they're trying to create this, you know, this kind of atmosphere that people become like scared, you know.

REEVES: Musharraf has justified his crackdown by blaming rising Islamist militancy and the excessive interference of the judiciary in government. Most people believe it had more to do with his concern that the Supreme Court was about to rule that his recent reelection as president was unconstitutional.

At a press conference today, Musharraf's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz wouldn't say how long the state of emergency would last. He did, however, have some instructions for the media.

Prime Minister SHAUKAT AZIZ (Pakistan): You will be sensitive to people's sensitivities, and you will follow a basic code of conduct which will not ridicule or malign anybody. But criticism is welcome.

REEVES: Tough new press restrictions have now been introduced in Pakistan, including a ban on broadcasting statements by militants and further restrictions on reporting the intensifying conflict between government forces and Islamist insurgence.

The U.S. is strongly critical of today's mass detentions and the TV news blackout, describing these as extreme and unreasonable. But there are now plenty of people in Pakistan who believe it's time for Washington to withdraw support for Musharraf, its close ally in the war on terror.

Among them is Babar Awan.

Mr. AWAN: They are either with the democracy issue, they're with the - a brighter face and future of Asia, or they're with the dictators. They have to make a choice.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad.

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Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said on Sunday that leaders of her opposition party had been arrested by Pakistan's security forces following a declaration of emergency rule by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Bhutto, who in recent weeks has sought a power-sharing deal with Musharraf, told NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday that "local leaders of the (Pakistan People's Party) were arrested last night."

Bhutto said she was "deeply concerned" about the situation and surprised that she herself had not been arrested when she returned to Pakistan on Saturday after a brief trip to Dubai.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup but had promised to stand down as army chief, declared a state of emergency Saturday night, dashing hopes of a smooth transition to democracy for the nuclear-armed nation.

In a statement on state-run television, he cited concerns about an Islamic militant movement that has spread from border regions to the capital and an increasingly defiant Supreme Court, which was expected to rule soon on the validity of his recent presidential election win. Hearings scheduled for next week were postponed, with no new date set.

"He said he's done this to stop extremism. But many people in Pakistan believe that this has actually been done to stop the Supreme Court from giving an adverse order against his eligibility to remain as army chief and president of the country," Bhutto told NPR.

Another former Pakistan prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, told NPR's All Things Considered that Pakistan was on the "brink of disaster."

"One man is holding the whole nation hostage," Sharif said.

He called for Washington to take a firm stand against Musharraf's actions.

"The United States has to put its foot down if it wants democracy in Pakistan," he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a return to democracy, as the American embassy urged citizens in Pakistan to remain at home and defer all nonessential travel. But Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the emergency declaration "does not impact our military support" of the Muslim nation or its efforts in the war on terror.

Meanwhile in Pakistan on Sunday, the headline carried by the Daily Times read: "It is martial law."

Pakistan Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum denied claims by Bhutto and Sharif that Musharraf had imposed martial law — direct rule by the army — under the guise of a state of emergency. He noted that the prime minister was still in place and that parliament would complete its term, ending Nov. 15.

In the capital, Islamabad, police wielding assault rifles rounded up opposition leaders and rights activists Sunday after Musharraf suspended the constitution, ousted Pakistan's top justices and deployed troops to fight what he called rising Islamic extremism.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said 500 activists had been arrested in the last 24 hours. He said the extraordinary measures, which include shutting down all but state-controlled media, would remain in place "as long as it is necessary." He also said parliamentary elections could be postponed up to a year, but no such decision had been made.

In Islamabad, phone service that was cut Saturday evening appeared to have been restored by Sunday morning. But transmissions by television news networks other than state-controlled Pakistan TV remained off the air.

Scores of paramilitary troops blocked access to the Supreme Court and parliament. Otherwise streets in the capital appeared calm, with only a handful of demonstrations. But one, attended by 40 people at the Marriott Hotel, was broken up by baton-wielding police.

"Shame on You! Go, Musharraf, go!" the protesters shouted, as officers dragged some out of the crowd and forced them to the ground. Eight were taken away in a van.

Western allies had urged Musharraf not to take authoritarian measures despite recent his country's recent turmoil.

With additional reporting from The Associated Press

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