Musharraf opposition detained under emergency rule

Hundreds of people were rounded up by security forces in Pakistan, one day after Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule, effectively martial law. Scores of opposition figures were among those detained.

Javed Hashmi, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) party, the party of exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was arrested. “Musharraf’s days are numbered. The time has come to end the political role of the army,” he told reporters in Multan before being taken away by police. Nawaz Sharif said to an Indian news channel: “We have not witnessed such a grave situation in the 60 years of Pakistan’s history.”

Also arrested were pro-democracy attorney, Munir Malik, and the leader of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jehangir. Both have been involved in protests against Musharraf in past years. Troops also arrested the staff of the Commission and began to close off and surround government buildings.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who recently returned home, addressed supporters in Karachi. “This is a situation worse than an emergency. The people of Pakistan will not accept this,” Bhutto said.

On Saturday, Musharraf laid out his reasons for the emergency rule. “Please do not expect or demand your level of democracy, which you learned over a number of centuries. Please also do not demand or expect your number of civil rights, human rights or civil liberties … Please give us time. For me and every Pakistani, Pakistan comes first,” said Musharraf in a statement.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it will review the financial aid that is providing Pakistan. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters, while in Jerusalem: “Obviously we are going to have to review the situation with aid, in part because we have to see what may be triggered by certain statutes.”

The US has given an estimated US$10 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001, primarily for counter-terrorism.

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