Musharraf amending charter to protect acts, before weekend end of emergency, official says
The Associated Press
By Paul Alexander

ISLAMABAD Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf will end emergency rule on Saturday as promised, but first he will amend the constitution to protect his decisions from court review, Pakistan’s attorney general said.

Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum told The Associated Press that government legal experts were finalizing the amendments and that the changes would be announced before the state of emergency is lifted. He provided no details.

“The president will lift the emergency to restore the constitution and the fundamental rights,” Qayyum said Thursday.

Musharraf, who has acknowledged breaching constitutional protections, purged the judiciary, jailed thousands of opponents and silenced television news channels after he suspended the constitution and declared emergency rule Nov. 3.

The U.S.-backed leader said he acted to prevent political chaos and to give authorities a freer hand against Islamic militants. Critics accuse him of making a power grab before the old Supreme Court could rule on the legality of his continued rule.

A new opinion poll indicated 60 percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the job Musharraf is doing, a finding that could bode badly for his political party going into parliamentary elections Jan. 8 that will decide who forms the next government.

The poll by the International Republican Institute a U.S. government-financed group that has Republican lawmakers and officials among its directors and senior staff said 31 percent of those surveyed felt former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was best suited to lead the country. Some 25 percent backed another former premier, Nawaz Sharif, and 23 percent chose Musharraf.

The institute said 3,520 people were interviewed in their homes nationwide during the Nov. 19-28 poll, a sampling size that generally carries an error margin of three percentage points.

Bhutto and Sharif both are recently returned after living for years in exile. They hit the campaign trail this week after abandoning threats to boycott the election.

“No single party can steer Pakistan out of the present crisis, and the democratic forces should come forward and pressurize the present regime to hold free and fair elections,” Bhutto said at a news conference in Karachi on Thursday.

While Bhutto and Sharif are united in their opposition to Musharraf, they are long political foes who already are squabbling about the best way to create an independent judiciary. Musharraf replaced purged judges with ones who have rejected all challenges to his October election to a new five-year term by the outgoing parliament, which was dominated by his loyalists.

Musharraf, who seized power by ousting Sharif in a 1999 coup, stepped down as army chief last month and was sworn in as a civilian president, meeting a key demand of the opposition and his foreign backers.

Washington has been a strong supporter of Musharraf since he dropped Pakistan’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and joined the U.S.-led campaign against extremist groups.

But in the new poll, most of those surveyed listed economic matters as the most important aspect of the campaign in this poor nation: 53 percent cited inflation, 15 percent named unemployment and 9 percent chose poverty. Only 6 percent listed terrorism.

Associated Press writers Zia Khan in Lahore and Khalid Tanveer in Multan contributed to this report.

Up ArrowTop