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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK

World: South Asia

Press urges return to democracy

Despite the coup, people are out on streets as normal

Newspapers in south Asia are pondering Pakistan's future following Tuesday's military coup.

Many of Pakistan's leading dailies have called for an early return to civilian rule.

Pakistan in crisis
"At the crossroads yet again" is the headline in the leading Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

The newspaper observes: "The situation is indeed altogether confusing." Its lead article holds the deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif responsible for putting the country into the crisis.

"His lust for supreme power precipitated it", says Dawn.

"It is obvious that Pakistan must speedily move towards fresh elections and a semblance of constitutionality," it added.

Another leading Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, does not seem unhappy with the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif.

The paper is particularly concerned about, what it describes as "American meddling in a sovereign nation_s affairs".

But it adds: "A great responsibility rests on [the army's] shoulders to put the country back on its rails and for that elections and a representative government as soon as possible are essential pre-requisites."

Another newspaper, The News, said that "Pakistan's history teaches us that prolonged direct military rule is counterproductive both for the country and the military as a professional institution."

India's concern

The Times of India,in a report headlined "India alarmed at events in Pakistan" comments: "The coup will be doubly dangerous in a nuclear Pakistan where there is no political leadership to control a general capable of pulling the nuclear trigger".

The Indian Express echoes these concerns in an article describing the Pakistani army chief as a hardliner towards India.

The newspaper quotes an Indian defence analyst as saying "India could expect things to worsen rather than improve in Kashmir because General Musharraf is known for his deep-rooted animosity towards India".

The Hindu points out that the move threatens the future of democracy in Pakistan and "destroys the credibility of the state structure".

"What is a matter of deep regret and disappointment is that this coup, albeit a bloodless one, plunges Pakistan's fragile civil society into deeper crisis," The Hindu said.

"However reprehensible Mr Sharif's administration might have been, Pakistan as a civil society does not deserve to be punished by depriving it of its inalienable right to have a democratic process and the potential for political alternatives within that democratic structure," it added.

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