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U.S. to Review Aid to Pakistan


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. Andrea Seabrook is away.

A day after declaring a state of emergency, Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf set about enforcing it. His security services detained hundreds of opposition activists and private TV news channels were kept off the air. The country's prime minister now says it maybe up to a year before elections are held, much to the annoyance of the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. is reviewing aid to Pakistan.

NPR's Philip Reeves is in Islamabad and begins our coverage.

PHILIP REEVES: Many of Musharraf's opponents were detained today as the general moved to silence his critics: politicians, human rights activists, lawyers. But some remained at liberty and were still willing to speak out.

Babar Awan is a senior member of the Pakistan People's Party led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He's also a lawyer at Pakistan's Supreme Court -the court whose defiance of Musharraf's government played a large part in prompting the general to introduce what many here say is, in fact, martial law.

The chief justice has now been sacked and Awan says most of the rest of the Supreme Court judges are refusing orders to take a new oath of allegiance.

Mr. BABAR AWAN (Member, Central Executive Committee, Pakistan People's Party): Thirteen out of 17. Yeah, the entire Supreme Court have shown its guts to stand against the dictatorial decision made by General Musharraf.

REEVES: Awan says this is evidence Pakistanis are not going to accept Musharraf's decision to suspend the constitution and with it all of their civil rights. He expects a leading role will be played by Pakistan's lawyers, the same people who for months campaigned against Musharraf's efforts to throw out the chief justice earlier this year.

Mr. AWAN: You will see the phenomenal resistance which has started that you are going to see and watch.

REEVES: Today there was little evidence of this resistance in Islamabad. The streets were calm and looked much the same as usual, although, scores of paramilitary forces blocked off the Supreme Court and parliament.

(Soundbite of demonstration)

REEVES: But a handful of protestors made their feelings felt. Among them was Farzana Bari, a university professor and human rights activist. The demonstration in which she took part was tiny, and yet still the police broke it up.

Professor FARZANA BARI (Director, Women Studies Center, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad): I think they're trying to terrorize people, you know? And they're trying to create this, you know, this kind of atmosphere that people become like scared, you know.

REEVES: Musharraf has justified his crackdown by blaming rising Islamist militancy and the excessive interference of the judiciary in government. Most people believe it had more to do with his concern that the Supreme Court was about to rule that his recent reelection as president was unconstitutional.

At a press conference today, Musharraf's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz wouldn't say how long the state of emergency would last. He did, however, have some instructions for the media.

Prime Minister SHAUKAT AZIZ (Pakistan): You will be sensitive to people's sensitivities, and you will follow a basic code of conduct which will not ridicule or malign anybody. But criticism is welcome.

REEVES: Tough new press restrictions have now been introduced in Pakistan, including a ban on broadcasting statements by militants and further restrictions on reporting the intensifying conflict between government forces and Islamist insurgence.

The U.S. is strongly critical of today's mass detentions and the TV news blackout, describing these as extreme and unreasonable. But there are now plenty of people in Pakistan who believe it's time for Washington to withdraw support for Musharraf, its close ally in the war on terror.

Among them is Babar Awan.

Mr. AWAN: They are either with the democracy issue, they're with the - a brighter face and future of Asia, or they're with the dictators. They have to make a choice.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.