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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 August 2007, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Musharraf rejects emergency rule
President Musharraf addressing a student gathering in Islamabad in July
Gen Musharraf faces increasing unrest and opposition at home
Pakistan has stepped back from imposing emergency rule, after mounting speculation that President Pervez Musharraf was considering the move.

A spokesman said there was pressure on Gen Musharraf to declare an emergency but that he had decided not to because he was "committed to democracy".

Earlier reports said the issue was being discussed because of external and internal threats to the country.

US President George W Bush urged Pakistan to hold free and fair polls.

On Wednesday Gen Musharraf abruptly called off a key visit to Afghanistan.

"No state of emergency is being imposed in Pakistan," Federal Minister for Information Mohammad Ali Durrani told Pakistani television.

Elections are the president's priority
Mohammad Ali Durrani
Federal Minister for Information

"There was pressure on the president to impose emergency due to the situation in the country, but he is committed to furthering democracy and will not take any such step.

"He was being ill advised by some people. He has decided against declaring the emergency. Elections are the president's priority," Mr Durrani said.

Opposition and media figures said the suggestion of emergency rule was related to Gen Musharraf''s desire to be re-elected for another term as both president and head of the army, said the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad.

'Difficult circumstances'

The discussion came as Pakistan faces an increasingly volatile political and security situation.

The emergency is a big step and the government should think twice before enforcing it
Benazir Bhutto,
Opposition leader

Tensions soared last month after a siege by government troops of Islamabad's radical Red Mosque ended with the deaths of more than 100 people.

Separately, in a move seen as a serious blow to the president, Pakistan's Supreme Court reinstated the country's chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Mr Chaudhry, who was suspended by Gen Musharraf amid claims of corruption, became the focus of opposition to the president with lawyers staging protests demanding his reinstatement.

Pakistani opposition leader Javed Hashmi, a fierce critic of Gen Musharraf who had been jailed on charges of sedition, was also freed from prison on Saturday after the Supreme Court ordered his release on bail.

Speculation

Junior Information Minister Tariq Azeem said emergency rule was being discussed, given external and internal threats to the country.

"The possibility of the enforcement of emergency, like other possibilities, is under discussion," he said.

He said US threats to launch an operation in the tribal areas and the recent targeting of Chinese nationals by Islamic militants had played a role in the issue being discussed.

"In addition, the situation on the borders and the suicide attacks are also a concern," Mr Azeem added.

Elections threat

Emergency rule would have limited the role of the courts, restricted civil liberties and curbed freedom of expression.

The president would have also been able to postpone national elections due to be held later in 2007, which could have enabled him to continue in his role as chief of Pakistan's powerful military.

Opposition political parties, like Pakistan's largest party, the PPP, want Gen Musharraf to give up the role.

"The emergency is a big step and the government should think twice before enforcing it," said former Prime Minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto.

Gen Musharraf pulled out of the three-day Afghan council, or jirga, on combating the Taleban, citing commitments in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is attending in his place.

Up to 700 tribal elders, Islamic clerics and leaders of both countries are invited to the council, starting on Thursday, which will discuss terrorism.

The Taleban have not been included, and are calling for a boycott of the event.


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