The wag will say that the nation has never left the state of emergency, but that is just being silly.
We now have a legal State of Emergency in Pakistan. Actually, it is officially being called "Emergency Plus" - more than "Emergency" but less than "Martial Law". Just right.
The move is hardly surprising considering the chaos engulfing Pakistan at the moment - from political (Supreme Court deliberations on the fate of the "election") to military (the tribal/militant conflict has spread to Swat and Peshawar) to ideological (Baluchistan) to international (Rice has decided she wants democracy).
According to the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) declaring emergency, the steps were taken because of the recent terrorist attacks, the release of terror-suspects by the judiciary, the lack of oversight of the judiciary and the low morale of police and army in the nation. See the text here [pdf].
The emergency law, Article 232 of the Constitution: (summarized) The Proclamation of emergency is issued by the President if he deems that the country is threatened by internal or external violence or disturbance. The Federals can take over the Provinces, the High Court. It has to be affirmed by joint Assemblies within two months or it will automatically end. All the supreme courts in the country will have to re-take their oaths to the state and they will be barred from issuing any orders against the army or the state.
Musharraf has suspended the tv broadcasts - and prohibited any "print or electronic media discussion or analysis that hurts the national interests".
The Supreme Court, which was expected to rule on Musharraf in a few days, is currently boarded up. Cities like Sarghoda, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad have mobilized against suicide attacks.
Emergency Rule, maybe Martial Law, the replacement of Klashnikovs with Suicide Belts, the Vanished ... Pakistan needed our help a year ago. It needed a genuine push for democratic processes back in March. We left unchecked, and unhindered, a megalomaniac "enlightened moderator". We keep insisting on our own interests ahead of the interests of the people of Pakistan. We remain steadfast in our belief that those people are not as developed nor as functional as we would like them to be. Pakistan needs a strong dictator. The fallacy ... the gross oversight ... has always been that he was never in control. He did not control Baluchistan where a genuine call for accountability and justice was quashed by horrific military violence - including missile assassinations. Baluchistan should have been afforded our attention in 2005 - but we were too busy in Iraq. It became, contiguous with Waziristan, the outpost and then the center of Taliban/extremist insurgents over the next two years. We insisted on supporting the one person who had no legitimate power to negotiate or fight for over 40% of territorial Pakistan. Can you imagine that?
Next up? Martial Law. More bombings. And the eventual drain of all that capital that had accumulated in the country in the past 8 years. Zimbabwe, here we come. Unless, US and China can come to their senses and do some actual diplomacy. The status is bleak. Let us say that Musharraf resigns and leaves. The Supreme Court declares an election date, the new government solves the Baluchistan issue, th US redeploys significant troops to Afghanistan (and keeps them there), the Pakistani military combats within cities and mountains of Pakistan. War. Chaos. Uncertainty. And this, my gentle readers, would be the best case scenario. A more likely option is a military state somewhere between Mugabe's Zimbabwe circa 2005 and Gandhi's India circa 1976. I must be proven wrong.
For now, we have a new Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court. But in an unprecedented move, only 4 judges have signed on to re-take the oath under PCO. This is big, big news. See this backgrounder for the significance.
Musharraf is to speak on “Meray Azeez Hum Watano” at 11:00 PST.
I also recommend following Democracy and Freedom Blog for video clips.