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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 20:32 GMT
Pakistan 'to keep elections date'
A lawyer is detained by police in Lahore, 5/11/07
Police dragged away many lawyers protesting in Lahore

Pakistan's prime minister says national elections will be held as scheduled, despite President Pervez Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule.

Elections are due by mid-January, but there were fears they might be abandoned because of the crisis.

Police have broken up street protests and hundreds of lawyers and opposition activists have been arrested.

US President George W Bush called for Gen Musharraf to call elections "as soon as possible".

The Pakistani president said he had declared the emergency to stop the country "committing suicide", because the country was in a crisis caused by militant violence and an unruly judiciary.

Critics, however, believe Gen Musharraf was acting to pre-empt a judgment by the Supreme Court on whether his re-election last month was legal.

Election timetable

The government had suggested parliamentary polls could be delayed by up to a year.

EMERGENCY RESTRICTIONS
Constitutional safeguards on life and liberty curtailed
Police get wide powers of arrest
Suspects can be denied access to lawyers
Freedom of movement restricted
Private TV stations taken off air
New rules curtail media coverage of suicide bombings or militant activity
Chief justice replaced, others made to swear oath of loyalty
Supreme Court banned from rescinding emergency order

But Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday that: "The next general elections will be held according to the schedule."

Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum was more specific.

"It has been decided there will be no delay in the election and by 15 November these assemblies will be dissolved and the election will be held within the next 60 days," he told Reuters news agency.

Pakistan had come under heavy international pressure after Gen Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Saturday.

In his first public comments, President Bush urged Gen Musharraf to "restore democracy as quickly as possible".

"We expect there to be elections as soon as possible and for the president to remove his military uniform," Mr Bush said from the White House.

He said he had told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver that message to Gen Musharraf by telephone.

Earlier on Monday, the general gave his clearest indication yet that he was unlikely to give up his military post soon, even though he had been scheduled to do so this month.

He told foreign diplomats in Islamabad that he would give up his military post "once we correct these pillars in judiciary and the executive and the parliament", according to comments broadcast on state-run television.

Aid reviewed

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "greatly concerned" at the imposition of emergency rule, according to his spokeswoman in New York.

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She said he also expressed "strong dismay at the detention of hundreds of human rights and opposition rights activists including the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief" Asma Jahangir.

The US has suspended defence co-operation talks with Pakistan set for this week and says it will review its multi-billion dollar aid programme.

The UK, another major donor, says it is examining whether the emergency will affect its aid to Pakistan.

The Netherlands became the first country to suspend aid, and the EU said its members were considering "possible further steps".

In Lahore on Monday an estimated 2,000 lawyers congregated to stage a rally protesting at the dismissal of top judges and restrictions on the judiciary, but several were reported wounded when police waded in with tear gas and baton charges.

Lawyers chanting anti-Musharraf slogans at a demonstration in Karachi were dragged off into police vans, says the BBC's M Ilyas Khan.

Demonstrations were also broken up in Rawalpindi.

House arrest

Lawyers' associations across the country said they were calling three days of protests and boycotts of courts.

Media reports, citing police and interior ministry sources, said some 1,500 people had been arrested in the past 48 hours, while many top judges were effectively under house arrest.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think Musharraf has about the most difficult job on the planet
David Bradshaw, Ashford, UK

The Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami was among the groups targeted.

Its leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, was under arrest, as were hundreds of members, the party said.

Information Minister Tariq Azim called those figures an exaggeration.

He told the BBC that it was up to protesters to remain calm, or deal with the consequences.

"If people take the law into their [own] hands, obviously, they have to be dealt with," he told the World Today.

Pakistani TV news channels, which have huge audiences, are being prevented from broadcasting within the country, and at least one newspaper press was raided by police.


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Lawyers being attacked by police in Pakistan



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