Here's the reason why Pakistani dictator general Musharaff has suddenly reversed course on making a personal appearance at the "peace jiirga" in Afghanistan which begins on Thursday - he might be spending Thursday declaring a national State of Emergency in Pakistan.
The government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is not ruling out imposing a state of emergency because of ``external and internal threats'' to Pakistan and deteriorating law and order in the volatile northwest near the Afghan border, a spokesman said Thursday.That Musharaff can spare his Prime Minister from this meeting to attend the jiirga speaks volumes about what that State of Emergency will entail - martial law and a new period of increased military crack-down on democracy.
Tariq Azim, minister of state for information, said Pakistani media reports that Musharraf would soon declare an emergency were unconfirmed, but he added that the possibility had been discussed and that ``no firm decision has yet been taken.''
``These are only unconfirmed reports although the possibility of imposition of emergency cannot be ruled out and has recently been talked about and discussed keeping in mind some external and internal threats and the law and order situation,'' he told The Associated Press.
Azim referred to recent military action against militants in northwestern border areas that he said had resulted in the deaths of many soldiers.
He also said statements coming from the United States, including from Sen. Barak Obama, D-Ill., a presidential hopeful, over the possibility of U.S. military action against al-Qaida in Pakistan ``has started alarm bells ringing and has upset (the) Pakistani public.''
An aide to the president, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Musharraf was due to meet with Cabinet ministers, the attorney-general and leaders from the ruling party on Thursday to discuss whether an emergency should be declared.
He did not expect a declaration of an emergency in the early hours of Thursday.
``I cannot say that it will be tonight, tomorrow or later. We hope that it does not happen,'' Azim said. ``But we are going through difficult circumstances so the possibility of an emergency cannot be ruled out.''
P.S. You've got to love that bit about Obama. As if Pakistan would consider declaring an emergency because the second-placed candidate for the Democratic nomination - for elections that aren't until next year - said anything at all! The Republicans will love that little "thanks for your support' from Mushie to Bush, though.