Pakistan's Musharraf declares emergency

Other News Materials 3 November 2007 18:45 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday ahead of a crucial Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent election win and amid rising Islamic militant violence.

Eight Supreme Court judges immediately rejected the emergency, which suspended the current constitution. The government blocked transmissions of private news channels in several cities and telephone services in the capital, Islamabad, were cut.

"The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order," a newscaster on state Pakistan TV said, adding that Musharraf, who took power in 1999 coup, would address the nation later Saturday.

Dozens of police blocked the road in front of the Supreme Court building, with the judges believed inside.

The state TV report gave no reason for the emergency but it follows weeks of speculation that he could take the step. Military vehicles patrolled and troops blocked roads in the administrative heart of the capital.

The U.S. and other Western allies urged him this week not to take steps that would jeopardize the country's transition to democracy.

During previous emergencies in Pakistan, a provisional constitutional order has led to the suspension of some basic rights of citizens and for judges to take a fresh oath of office.

"This is the most condemnable act," said Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the opposition PML-N party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif was barred by Musharraf from returning to exile to Pakistan in September to mount a campaign against military rule.

"The whole nation will resist this extra-constitutional measure," he said.

Private Geo TV network reported the eight judges rejected the declaration of emergency and ordered top officials, including the prime minister, and military officers not to comply.

Geo reported that the army had entered the court building, but the report could not immediately be confirmed.

Shahzad Iqbal, an official at a cable TV news provider in Islamabad said authorities were blocking transmissions of private news channels in Islamabad and neighboring Rawalpindi. State TV was still on the air.

"The government has done it," he said.

Residents of Karachi said their cable TV was also off the air.