Nirupama Subramanian

Deposed Chief Justice will not be reinstated, says Minister

Widespread fears of poll rigging

Curbs on former judges to continue

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is to make more amendments to the Constitution before lifting Emergency rule on Saturday, including one to protect actions taken by him since the imposition of Emergency, Attorney-General Malik Qayyum said on Thursday.

Mr. Qayyum told The Hindu that even though a November 22 presidential order indemnifying all actions of Gen. Musharraf since the November 3 imposition of Emergency was valid for the entire period of the Emergency, a second order was being finalised to further secure actions from the date of the first order until the revocation of the Emergency.

General Musharraf’s team of legal advisors thought a second order covering the period from November 22 necessary as the prospective indemnity provided by the first one could prove legally problematic, he said. “We want to make doubly sure that these actions are secure,” Mr. Qayyum said.

The Attorney-General said there were “a few more minor amendments” in the pipeline, including one lowering the recruitment age for judges and another setting up a high court in the Pakistan capital.

The amendments will also be announced on Saturday, he said.

As Pakistan awaits the lifting of the Emergency in the next 48 hours, caretaker Information Minister Nisar Memon told foreign correspondents that “no country that has been derailed from the constitutional path has come back on the rails within one month and 12 days”.

Even during this period, the country had managed to stay within the Constitution, Mr. Memon said.

He said there was no possibility of the January 8 election being delayed, and the caretaker government was there to provide a “conducive environment” for the electoral exercise. One of the steps taken to improve the environment was the freeing of all except five out of 5,000 persons arrested after the Emergency.

The five, all lawyers, would be released when the government was assured of their “safety and security” as well as the “law and order situation,” he said. Among the five lawyers is Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. He had filed his nomination papers as a PPP candidate from a Lahore constituency, but on Wednesday announced his withdrawal from the race in support of the lawyers’ agitation for the reinstatement of the dismissed judges.

Mr. Memon said the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was “certainly not going to come back as he was not given the oath [under the Provisional Constitutional Order]”. He said Mr. Chaudhary, who is under virtual house arrest, was “moving about wherever he wants to go, subject to the condition that there is no security onslaught on him”.

He said the decision to remove restrictions on him and the other judges would be taken “after the election and when the law and order situation improves”.

The Minister also defended a fresh notification from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to television channels asking them to fall in line with the post-Emergency code of conduct as “nothing new”.

“It is something that all those operating have signed upon,” he said, adding that the new notification was only “a reminder”.

Amid widespread fears and accusation that the election will be rigged to favour General Musharraf’s allies, and that some pre-poll rigging is already underway, Mr. Memon said the government was allowing election observers from several countries, and that some were already present in Pakistan.