Emergency rule may delay Pakistan's parliamentary election
Canada's defence minister among international voices who condemned constitution's suspension
A parliamentary election planned for early January in Pakistan could be delayed by up to a year because of a proclamation of emergency rule, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Sunday.
"We are still deliberating. The parliament could give itself more time, up to a year, in terms of holding the next election," Aziz told reporters in Islamabad.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Saturday and suspended the constitution, saying he needs less interference from the judiciary as his government fights a growing militant threat.
The moves came as the Supreme Court was to rule, possibly within the next two weeks,on the legality of Musharraf's re-election in October. He was handed another term in a vote by legislators, although opposition politicians and other critics had insisted the president should not be chosen until voters elected a new parliament.
After announcing the state of emergency, Musharraf fired the Supreme Court's top judge while troops placed barbed wire around government buildings and authorities rounded up hundreds of his political rivals.
As many as 500 people were detained across Pakistan over the weekend, Aziz acknowledged. Media reports said they included opposition party workers, lawyers and human rights activists.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he would raise U.K. concerns over the general's moves "at the highest levels."He also said it was "vital" for Musharraf to hold "free and fair elections."
U.S. reviews aid to Pakistan
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that the United States was reviewing billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, a close ally in Washington's so-called War on Terror,in light of the emergency declaration.
Rice said she was "disappointed'' that the 64-year-old general suspended Pakistan's constitution and fired the Supreme Court chief justice who has opposed him.
"Some of the aid that goes to Pakistan is directly related to the counterterrorism mission," Rice told reporters travelling with her in Jerusalem.
"We just have to review the situation. But I would be very surprised if anyone wants the president to ignore or set aside our concerns about terrorism."
Canada's defence minister condemns move
Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay also expressed concern.
"We certainly condemn the move away from the democratic principles and respect for rule of law," MacKay said on Sunday, as he arrived in Afghanistan for his first visit as defence minister. Canada has about 2,500 troops serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
"We condemn anything that would undermine the progress that we hoped we would see in free and fair elections and as a country that espouses very strongly democratic values and respect for rule of law, respect for human rights," MacKay said.
"We see this very much as a step in the wrong direction."
MacKay said the situation in Pakistan is adding to instability in the region.
"We're very concerned in regard to the stability, in regard to the impact it will have on regional security here. We're calling for free and fair elections, the reinstatement of the judiciary and we're hoping they will continue their efforts towards regional security in Afghanistan," said MacKay.
"The specific concerns relate to the refugees who are in Pakistan and what impact it may have on their movement in and out of the country," he added. "We're concerned about the impact it will have politically throughout the region."