Breaking: State of Emergency Declared in Pakistan


    Emergency declared in Pakistan
    • Story Highlights
    • Emergency rule declared, constitution suspended, Chief Justice expelled
    • Troops enter Supreme Court, court declares emergency illegal
    • Ex-PM Benazir Bhutto said to be returning to Pakistan from Dubai
    • Most media channels off the air due to an apparent media blackout
    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Faced with increasing violence and unrest, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency Saturday, government sources told CNN.

    Musharraf issued a provisional constitutional order proclaiming the emergency and suspending the nation's constitution, according to a statement read on state television. He is scheduled to address the nation at 1800GMT Saturday.

    The Supreme Court declared the state of emergency illegal, claiming Musharraf had no power to suspend the constitution, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry told CNN.

    Shortly afterward, Chaudhry was expelled as chief justice, his office told CNN. Troops who came to Chaudhry's office said arrangements were being made for his replacement.

    It was the second time Chaudhry was removed from his post. His ousting by Musharraf in May prompted massive protests, and he was later reinstated.

    In Islamabad, troops entered the Supreme Court and were surrounding the judges' homes, according to CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi.

    Aitzaz Ahsan, a leading Pakistani attorney and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, was arrested at his home. A former interior minister, Ahsan represented Chaudry the first time he was forced to leave his post.

    Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who left Pakistan last week to visit her family in Dubai, was returning to the country, according to a member of her Pakistan People's Party. The Associated Presss reported an opposition spokesman as saying she was on a plane at Karachi airport. Bhutto returned to Pakistan last month after several years in exile.

    The declaration prompted a few hundred people to take to the streets in protest.
    Earlier, private networks had reported the declaration was imminent as top officials huddled at Musharraf's residence in Rawalpindi. Shortly after that report, most media channels went off the air in an apparent blackout, although some flickered off and on.
    The declaration could potentially delay approaching parliamentary elections, according to CNN's Nic Robertson. It also could provide Musharraf with a reason to continue serving as the nation's military chief, although he has pledged to step down from that post.

    Bhutto initially planned to leave for Dubai on Wednesday, but delayed her departure after a senior PPP leader advised her not to leave the country because of the current political situation.

    The nation's political atmosphere has been tense for months, with Pakistani leaders in August considering the imposition of a state of emergency because of the growing security threats in the country's lawless tribal regions. But Musharraf, influenced in part by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, held off on the move.

    Since that time Musharraf has faced a flurry of criticism from the opposition, who demanded he abandon his military position before becoming eligible to seek a third presidential term. Musharraf garnered a vast majority of votes in presidential elections last month; however, those results have not been certified by the nation's high court.

    For weeks the country has been coasting in a state of political limbo while the Supreme Court works to tackle legal challenges filed by the opposition that calls into question Musharraf's eligibility to hold office. Some have speculated that a declaration of emergency is tied to rumors the court is planning to rule against Musharraf.
    Musharraf, who led the 1999 coup as Pakistan's army chief, has seen his power erode since the failed effort to oust Chaudhry. His administration is also struggling to contain a surge in Islamic militancy.

    Bhutto, who has defied death threats, is working to lead her party into January's general elections and gain a third term as prime minister, possibly under a power-sharing deal with Musharraf.

    On October 18, a suicide attacker killed at least 130 people in an assassination attempt on Bhutto during her homecoming. Bhutto received light wounds, but escaped largely unharmed.