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US calls Pakistan emergency rule declaration 'setback for democracy'

[JURIST] US State Department officials Saturday expressed concern and skepticism about Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's decision to declare emergency rule [JURIST report] in Pakistan and suspend the country's constitution in a move largely designed to thwart an increasingly activist Pakistani judiciary. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack [official profile] said in a press statement [text]:

The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that Pakistani President Musharraf has taken extra-constitutional actions and has imposed a state of emergency. A state of emergency would be a sharp setback for Pakistani democracy and takes Pakistan off the path toward civilian rule. President Musharraf has stated repeatedly that he will step down as Chief of Army Staff before re-taking the presidential oath of office and has promised to hold elections by January 15th. We expect him to uphold these commitments and urge him to do so immediately.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made similar comments to reporters as she continued a visit to Turkey. Reuters has more

Musharraf made the emergency declaration Saturday as the country anticipated a Supreme Court ruling [JURIST reports] on whether he had been eligible to run for re-election [JURIST report] as Pakistan's president while still army chief. Media reports suggested that the court had already prepared a ruling against Musharraf but had not yet released it. A Provisional Constitution Order [text] issued by Musharraf bars the high court or any court from making "any order against the President or the Prime Minister or any person exercising powers or jurisdiction under this authority." Dawn has continuing local coverage.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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