Pakistan may declare state of emergency

( AP ) - The government of embattled Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Thursday it may impose a state of emergency because of "external and internal threats" and deteriorating law and order in the volatile northwest near the Afghan border.

Tariq Azim, minister of state for information, said talk from the United States about the possibility of U.S. military action against al-Qaida in Pakistan "has started alarm bells ringing and has upset the Pakistani public." He mentioned Democratic presidential hopeful Barak Obama by name as an example of someone who made such comments, saying his recent remarks were one reason the government was debating a state of emergency.

But it appeared the motivation for a declaration of an emergency would be the domestic political woes of Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism who took power in a 1999 coup.

His popularity has dwindled and his standing has been badly shaken by a failed bid to oust the country's chief justice - an independent-minded judge likely to rule on expected legal challenges to the Musharraf's bid to seek a new five-year presidential term this fall.

The Pakistani government's comments on a possible emergency declaration came hours after Musharraf abruptly announced he was canceling a planned trip to Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday to attend a U.S.-backed tribal peace council aimed at curtailing cross-border militancy by the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The decision to cancel the trip appeared linked to the government's deliberations over declaring a state of emergency.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke at length with Musharraf in a call that took place in the early hours of Thursday in Pakistan, a senior State Department official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, refused to discuss the substance of the 17-minute conversation.

During a state of emergency, the government can restrict the freedom to move, rally, engage in political activities or form groups and impose other limits such as restricting the parliament's right to make laws or even dissolving parliament.

"These are only unconfirmed reports although the possibility of imposition of emergency cannot be ruled out and has recently been talked about and discussed, keeping in mind some external and internal threats and the law and order situation," Azim told The Associated Press.

"I cannot say that it will be tonight, tomorrow or later. We hope that it does not happen. But we are going through difficult circumstances so the possibility of an emergency cannot be ruled out," he added.

Pakistani television networks reported that a declaration of an emergency was imminent, but other senior government officials said no final decision had been made.

No announcement had been made by daybreak Thursday. Legal experts and security officials began arriving at Musharraf's office in Islamabad at midmorning for meetings on the issue, a presidential aide said on condition on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum said he had been summoned to meet Musharraf later Thursday, but he had not been told the reason.

Azim referred to recent Pakistani military action against militants in northwestern border areas that he said had resulted in the deaths of many soldiers.

Violence has been rising in the lawless region where critics say a September 2006 peace deal with local Taliban has allowed Islamic militants to thrive. The U.S. has called the deal a failure, saying it gave al-Qaida an opportunity to regroup in the region.

Meanwhile, Musharraf on Wednesday pulled out of a "peace jirga" in Kabul that is to bring more than 600 Pakistani and Afghan tribal leaders together with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan's Foreign Office said Musharraf had phoned Karzai Wednesday to say he couldn't attend because of "engagements" in Islamabad, and that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz would take his place. Afghan officials said the jirga would proceed as planned without Musharraf.

Aziz held talks with Musharraf early Thursday before leaving for Afghanistan, and that he was due back in Pakistan later in the day.

In Washington, the State Department said the U.S. understands Musharraf's decision to pull out of the planned meeting in Afghanistan.

"President Musharraf certainly wouldn't stay back in Islamabad if he didn't believe he had good and compelling reasons to stay back," McCormack said. "Certainly we would understand that."

Musharraf is under growing American pressure to crack down on militants at the Afghan border because of the fears that al-Qaida is regrouping there.

The Bush administration has also not ruled out unilateral military action inside Pakistan, but like Obama, has stressed the need to work with Musharraf.

On Wednesday, Obama was asked again about his views on Pakistan.

"We can't send millions and millions of dollars to Pakistan for military aid and be a constant ally to them and yet not see more aggressive action in dealing with al-Qaida," he told reporters in Oakland, Calif.

However, he did not repeat the most incendiary line from his foreign policy speech last week when he promised: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

On Tuesday night, Obama appeared to soften his position during a debate with other Democratic presidential hopefuls.

"I did not say that we would immediately go in unilaterally. What I said was that we have to work with Musharraf, because the biggest threats to American security right now are in the northwest provinces of Pakistan."

Obama and his spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday on Pakistan's possible declaration of a state of emergency.

One of Musharraf's worries back home is a Supreme Court hearing set for Thursday of a petition in which exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - ousted in 1999 in the coup that brought Musharraf to power - and his brother are seeking to be allowed to return to Pakistan contest parliamentary elections due by early 2008.

Speaking from London to Pakistan's Geo TV, Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz Sharif, said an emergency would be aimed at stopping two "pillars of the country, two citizens of the country" from coming back.

"This will be another blunder by Musharraf. There is no justification, no basis for emergency," he said.

Another exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - widely reported to have met with Musharraf recently in the United Arab Emirates to discuss a power-sharing deal - said that imposition of emergency would be a "drastic" step that the government should not take.

An aide to the president said Musharraf was due to meet with Cabinet ministers, the attorney-general and leaders from the ruling party on Thursday to discuss whether an emergency should be declared. He said he did not expect a declaration of an emergency in the early hours of Thursday.

A senior government official said Musharraf had held several meetings Wednesday with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, legal experts and top figures of the ruling party and the leaking of possible emergency plans indicated that it was a serious option.

Both the aide and the official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Under Pakistan's constitution, the head of state - the president - may declare a state of emergency if it is deemed that the country's security is "threatened by war or external aggression, or by internal disturbance beyond" the government's authority to control.

If a state of emergency is to be extended beyond two months, it must be approved by a joint sitting of parliament, the constitution says.

Head of EU Delegation to Azerbaijan talks possibilities of resuming int'l travel
Head of EU Delegation to Azerbaijan talks possibilities of resuming int'l travel
Hungarian lab confirms reliability of Sputnik V jab delivered to Slovakia
Hungarian lab confirms reliability of Sputnik V jab delivered to Slovakia
France's Macron: Vaccine patents not the issue, it's getting jabs out
France's Macron: Vaccine patents not the issue, it's getting jabs out
Loading Bars
Austrian IT company discloses volume of entire internet traffic accounting for people in 2020
Azerbaijan's 4M2021 revenues from State Customs Committee unveiled
Azerbaijan almost doubles export of aluminum
Azerbaijan partially resuming traditional form of education
Armenia experiences continuous population decline
EU to continue activity in Azerbaijan in field of green economy - Head of EU delegation
Head of EU Delegation to Azerbaijan talks possibilities of resuming int'l travel
Group teams perform at National Gymnastics Arena as part of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan names finalists in exercises with ball within Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku
Azerbaijan names finalists in exercises with hoop within Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku
Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku - results of performance of Azerbaijani gymnasts in exercise with hoop and ball (PHOTO)
Italian gymnast talks about friendly relations with Azerbaijani gymnast
Best moments of first day of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku (PHOTO)
World Cup in Baku - most long-awaited competition, says Lithuanian gymnast
WB plans to issue loan for road project in Azerbaijan
Georgian SME program aims digitization and environmental initiative to address climate change
Georgia to build enterprise for production of cleaning and detergents
Presidents of Uzbekistan, Russia consider strengthening of strategic partnership
Trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Belarus significantly increases
Hungarian lab confirms reliability of Sputnik V jab delivered to Slovakia
France's Macron: Vaccine patents not the issue, it's getting jabs out files for Wall Street IPO
Georgia, Ukraine emphasize European and Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations
Organizing committee of World Cup in Azerbaijan’s Baku doing its job perfectly - Hungarian gymnast
Hotel price index up in Georgia for April 2021
Qatar Airways to resume flights from Doha to Baku soon
Uzbekistan reveals financial performance of Uzbek mobile operators
Iran's sees increase in petrochemical exports
Indian Embassy in Baku introduced a new Sanskrit learning App, ‘Little Guru’ (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan discloses number of views of President Aliyev’s interview on Twitter (VIDEO)
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens for May 7
Azerbaijan issues data on 1Q2021 export of fruits, vegetables
Azerbaijan confirms 722 more COVID-19 cases, 1,854 recoveries
Iran-Syria trade increases - Chamber of Commerce
Heydar Aliyev Foundation to organize legendary Khary Bulbul music festival in Shusha
Azerbaijan State Security Service talks arrest of illegal armed groups' members
VISA, Central Bank of Azerbaijan sign agreement on development of non-cash payments in Azerbaijan
Pakistan PM Khan in Saudi Arabia to discuss relations
Georgian Formula Construction exports building materials to Lithuania
Firefighters tackle blaze at 19-storey London tower block
Iran increases amount of jobs in free economic zones
Azerbaijan creates best conditions in National Gymnastics Arena - Uzbek gymnast
Greece, Estonia have biggest decrease in CO2 emissions from energy use
Iran says no need for direct or indirect talks with US
Georgia sees increase in international visitors
AzerGold discloses results of tender for software installation
Highest rate of inactive loans recorded in Georgian Cartu Bank
Russia documents 8,386 COVID-19 cases in past 24 hours
U.S. administers nearly 252 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccines
Georgia needs investments for faster economic recovery - PM
Azerbaijan has lower COVID-19 death rate compared to global indicators - professor
Kazakhstan sees decrease in petroleum oil exports to Spain
Baku hosts opening ceremony of Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup (PHOTO)
Former serviceman accused of treason and espionage in Armenia
Azerbaijan plans to withdraw its peacekeepers from Afghanistan – Defense ministry
India grants permission for 5G trials to telecom service providers
Armenian side does not fulfill obligations upon int’l humanitarian law - MFA
Japan pledges $50.3 million to help India combat COVID-19
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan developing analogy of Schengen visa for Silk Road countries
Azerbaijan forming perspective industrial complex
Azerbaijan - important int’l transport hub - chairman of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC (PHOTO)
ADB to no longer finance coal mining, oil, and natural gas field exploration
Successful policy on development of sports in Azerbaijan bearing fruit - Deputy Sports Minister
All gymnasts provided with necessary time to train for Rhythmic Gymnastics FIG World Cup in Baku - Greek gymnast
Germany says production capacity, not patents, key to upping vaccine output
Saudi to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all workers
Georgia shares data on number of citizen registered for temporary employment in Germany and Israel
Uzbekneftegaz increases natural gas output at field of Gazli oil and gas production dep’t
Uzbekistan to increase copper sulfate exports to Poland
Several investment projects to be implemented in Kazakhstan's Zhambyl in 2021
Iran continues to strengthen ties with China, Russia
Winners of ‘Sustainable Development in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering’ conference awarded (PHOTO)
Very exciting to perform in Rhythmic Gymnastics FIG World Cup in Baku - Polish gymnast
Global Affairs Canada welcomes release of Armenian detainees by Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan's SME Dev't Agency holds training for female entrepreneurs (VIDEO)
Azerbaijani PulPal payment system receives purchase offer
Georgia begins renovating buildings and infrastructure in Gardabani
Azerbaijan eyes to launch WeChat payment solution
Azerbaijan's Central Bank unveils results of tender launched to support database platform
SOCAR’s Petkim reveals profit in Q1 2021
S.Korea to set up training center for advanced technologies of fruit, vegetable production in Uzbekistan
Oil prices set for weekly gain despite India virus surge
Azerbaijan boosts steel imports from Turkey
No 'Indian' strain of COVID-19 detected in Azerbaijan
Kazakhstan-China Pipeline LLP opens tender on repairs of pipelines
Uzbekistan, Ireland consider establishing co-op in tourism sector
Egyptian gymnast talks AGF's organization of World Cup in Baku
Nuvei acquires Israeli fintech co Simplex for $250m
SOCAR’s Petkim increases production capacity to 92%
Kazakhstan decreases imports of Belgium-made goods
Thailand expects up to 20 mln doses of Pfizer vaccine from July
Kazakhstan's inflation rate for April 2021 revealed
Shusha declared cultural capital of Azerbaijan - presidential order
Number of ships received at Turkish Gemlik port in 1Q2021 revealed
Putin instructs government to support international Arctic expedition
Kazakhstan’s Nostrum identifies measures to add to PDP reserves
Azerbaijan’s renewable energy path: ongoing and future projects
Georgia reports 1,547 new cases of coronavirus for May 7
Uzbekistan eyes attracting Singaporean companies for co-op in electrical industry
Turkey ratifies agreement on international combined transport of goods with Georgia
All news