Pakistan high court battles Musharraf over emergency rule as constitution suspended

[JURIST] Pakistan's Supreme Court [official website] Saturday rejected [order, PDF] a declaration of emergency rule [proclamation, PDF] issued by President Pervez Musharraf [official website] earlier in the day after paramilitary troops and police blocked off the Supreme Court building with the judges still inside. Musharraf made the declaration and suspended the constitution as the country anticipated a ruling [JURIST report] by the court on whether Musharraf had been eligible to run for re-election as Pakistan's president while still army chief. Referring to Musharraf's military capacity, an announcer on state television said that "The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order." Local media reports said Musharraf would address the nation in the evening local time. Dawn, Pakistan's leading English-language newspaper, said that no official reason for the declaration was given, but explained that "[d]uring 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." It did, however, quote Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Tariq Azeem as saying that regional security concerns had stimulated the government to fulfil its responsibility to maintain law and order at every cost. Azeem emphasized, however, that there technically was no martial law in force and insisted that the emergency declaration was permissible under Article 232 of Pakistan's constitution [text].

Dawn reported that controversial Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [official website; JURIST news archive] - previously suspended by Musharraf in March and only reinstated by Supreme Court order in July - has been told his "services are no longer required" and that the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan, has been arrested and ordered detained for 30 days. Bloomberg has more. Dawn has continuing local coverage.

1:25 PM ET - The text of Musharraf's Proclamation of Emergency cites a "spate of attacks on State infrastructure and on law enforcement agencies", but devotes most of its attention to disagreements with Pakistan's judiciary, explaining the declaration of emergency in these terms:

Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive nd legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism thereby weakening the Government and the nation's resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

Whereas there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;

Whereas constant interference in executive functions, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralised and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and Intelligence Agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;

Whereas some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released.

The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property.

Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies subdued;

Whereas some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions;

Whereas the Government is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and holds the superior judiciary in high esteem, it is nonetheless of paramount importance that the Honourable Judges confine the scope of their activity to the judicial function and not assume charge of administration;

Whereas an important Constitutional institution, the Supreme Judicial Council, has been made entirely irrelevant and non est by a recent order and judges have, thus, made themselves immune from inquiry into their conduct and put themselves beyond accountability;

Whereas the humiliating treatment meted to government officials by some members of the judiciary on a routine basis during court proceedings has demoralized the civil bureaucracy and senior government functionaries, to avoid being harassed, prefer inaction;

Whereas the law and order situation in the country as well as the economy have been adversely affected and trichotomy of powers eroded;

Whereas a situation has thus arisen where the Government of the country cannot be carried on in accordance with the Constitution and as the Constitution provides no solution for this situation, there is no way out except through emergent and extraordinary measures;

And whereas the situation has been reviewed in meetings with the Prime Minister, Governors of all four Provinces, and with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Chiefs of the Armed Forces, Vice-Chief of Army Staff and Corps Commanders of the Pakistan Army;

Now, therefore, in pursuance of the deliberations and decisions of the said meetings, I General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff, proclaim Emergency throughout Pakistan.

I hereby order and proclaim that the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance.

This Proclamation shall come into force at once.
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