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U.S. to Musharraf: Hold elections

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Kristina
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« on: November 05, 2007, 01:21:04 pm »

U.S. to Musharraf: Hold elections

Story Highlights
U.S. urges Musharraf to keep to promise, cut ties with the military

Police, lawyers clash in Lahore; More than 1,500 lawyers arrested nationwide

Bhutto party members, head of largest Islamic party, among detainees


     

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- The United States has urged Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to sever his links with the military and reinstate civilian rule.


 
Police confront lawyers protesting aginst the state of emergency in Lahore Monday.

 1 of 3 more photos   U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking at a news conference in the West Bank Monday, said Musharraf, who imposed emergency rule Saturday, should stick by his pledge to step down as the country's military chief.

"We believe that the best path for Pakistan is to quickly return to a constitutional path and then to hold elections," Rice said.

"It is also true that President Musharraf has said that he will take off his uniform. That would be an important step."

President Bush is scheduled to address the situation from the White House on Monday.

By imposing a state of emergency, Musharraf suspended Pakistan's constitution and put elections that had been scheduled for January on indefinite hold. Musharraf says it is part of "a phased manner to move towards complete democracy," according to a statement from his office.

But Rice disagreed.

"So much has happened over the last several years to try and pull Pakistan away from extremism, to try to launch Pakistan on a democratic path, to launch Pakistan on a path toward the return to civilian rule," Rice said. "And our disappointment is that this is a setback for that path."

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson and other senior ambassadors -- including Britain's -- met with Musharraf on Monday to raise Washington's concerns with the "heavy-handed" measures taken in Lahore on Monday, senior U.S. officials said.

Rice's comments came as police, wielding batons, clashed with lawyers and journalists Monday outside the courthouse in Lahore.

Video showed plainclothes security officials herding protesters onto large buses, sometimes dragging them through the streets, as uniformed officials shot tear gas canisters in an attempt to control the demonstrations.

The confrontation took place as more than 1,500 lawyers were arrested across the country -- 1,200 in Lahore itself and more than 300 in Faisalabad and Karachi -- with police blocking roads leading to courthouses in major cities.

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The Pakistani government, a nuclear power and key ally in the war against terror, denied that Musharraf had been placed under house arrest, dismissing rumors widely circulating throughout the country.

Senior Pakistani officials have said that the figure of 1,500 detainees is an underestimate and that several thousand lawyers across the country of 160 million people have been picked up. They added that police stations are packed with the detainees, forcing the government to use schools as temporary holding cells.

Political opposition figures have also been rounded up. Qazi Hussain Ahmad, president of the country's largest Islamic party, said that he has been placed under house arrest. Ahmad, a prominent opposition leader and head of the Religious Party Alliance, is confined to his home in Lahore.

The Associated Press reported that Pakistan's opposition groups believed there to have been around 3,500 people detained.

Others under arrest include more than 60 members of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, a senior police official said.

Bhutto's spokesman called Musharraf's declaration an "act of terror" against civil society and predicted it marked "the beginning of the end of Musharraf."

Unlike other opposition leaders, Bhutto remains free and her spokesman denied reports that she may have struck a deal with Musharraf. He said that Musharraf "would face a severe backlash" if he arrested Bhutto.

Bhutto condemned the arrests of her party members at a news conference Monday in Karachi and said she will head to Islamabad on Wednesday for a meeting of Pakistan's opposition parties.

She also called on world leaders to put pressure on the Pakistani president to reinstate the constitution.

Britain called on Pakistan's government to release all political prisoners detained under the emergency. A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that Britain is reviewing its aid program, worth $493 million over the next three years.

Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said the elections would not be held until "things become normal."  Watch interior ninister discusses the emergency with CNN

While Musharraf said the suspension of the constitution was made necessary by the growing threat of terrorism and out-of-control judicial activism, opponents said Musharraf was trying to avoid a Supreme Court decision expected in the coming days that could have ruled that he was not eligible for another presidential term.

The United States, in reaction, postponed a Pentagon official's visit to Pakistan this week for a yearly meeting with his Pakistani defense counterpart.

Opposition parties had petitioned the Supreme Court to declare Musharraf ineligible for a third term as president because he remains the head of the country's military.

Crackdown on judiciary continues

The scene outside of the Lahore court turned violent Monday. Police used tear gas as they arrested at least 1,200 lawyers gathered there. CNN's Mohsin Naqvi, who was in the crowd, said police were beating the lawyers and the journalists who were covering the story. Naqvi was coughing from the tear gas as he spoke.  Watch as CNN's Mohsin Naqvi describes the scene

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Naqvi counted at least two dozen lawyers in Lahore who were injured by police and required hospitalization.

Police blocked all roads leading to courthouses in Pakistan's major cities Monday morning, preventing access the protesters and the news media. Several journalists -- including a television news crew -- were detained and their equipment taken near the courthouse in Quetta, police said.

Paramilitary forces and police Monday raided the Karachi offices of the Jang Group, a media conglomerate that owns Pakistan's largest English newspaper and Dubai-based GEO TV. Thirty-five independent TV stations are still off the air in Pakistan; only state-run stations continue to broadcast.


Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Sunday that the media in Pakistan would have to abide by a new "code of conduct" that is not designed to curb dissent.

Under the emergency measures, newspapers and broadcasters are forbidden from expressing opinions prejudicial to "the ideology of Pakistan or integrity of Pakistan." In addition, they are restricted from covering suicide bombings and militant activity and could face a three-year jail term if they "ridicule" members of the government or armed forces. E-mail to a friend

CNN's Elise Labott and Alphonso Van Marsh contributed to this report


http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/11/05/pakistan/index.html
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Kristina
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« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2007, 01:21:40 pm »



Pakistani riot police charge lawyers during a protest in Lahore Monday.
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Kristina
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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2007, 01:22:12 pm »



Lawyers take to the streets on Monday outside a district court in Islamabad in protest against emergency rule.
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