New Delhi: President Pervez Musharraf claimed on Saturday night that Pakistan was at a dangerous crossroads thanks to growing extremism and increasing judicial intervention, which had led to a 'semi-paralysis' in the civil administration and law-enforcing agencies.
Strongly defending his decision to impose Emergency, Gen Musharraf said the situation warranted tough decisions and the 'difficult' decision was his last resort to save the country from plunging into chaos.
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Justifying his decision to promulgate Emergency in the country, he said this decision was taken for Pakistan's benefit. The General said all his decisions were taken on the guiding principle of 'Pakistan First'.
"Pakistan is on the verge of destabilisation and inaction at this stage will be a suicide for the country. If tough and uncomfortable decisions are not taken now, Pakistan may plunge into anarchy," Gen Musharraf said.
In a midnight address to the nation aired on national television, he claimed terrorism is at an all-time high in Pakistan and extremists are roaming around in the country with impunity. "Pakistan is at a critical point. Terror has also taken roots even in Islamabad. Hardliners are spreading fundamentalist ideas about Islam across the country," he said.
Criticising the activism of the judiciary in the country, Gen Musharraf said: "The government is in a state of semi-paralysis. The Executive is constantly being pulled up and questioned by the courts, especially by the Supreme Court."
Senior Government officials are busy running around the courts. They are being punished and humiliated. The court has taken up hundreds of sou motto cases and thousands of new petitions have been filed. "All this has created a semi-paralysis in the government.
Law-enforcement agencies are demoralised as senior officers are running around courts. "10 senior police officers, including two IGs, were suspended on court order recently," he pointed out. "I tried to cooperate with the courts, but unfortunately things didn't get better," he said.
"The courts had paralysed the government," the Pakistan President said, and reiterated that Judiciary, Legislature and Executive are three pillars of a stable country and should act in tandem.
Responding to international criticism over his decision, Gen Musharraf told the US, European Union and Commonwealth countries not to expect the same level of democracy and civil liberties and human rights in those countries and give him time as "we are learning democracy."
"As our friends in the West, you should understand the criticality of the situation in Pakistan. Please give us time. Please do not expect your level of civil liberties and civil rights. We are also learning. Please give us time," he said.
Musharraf said he had a three-pronged strategy to take the nation towards democracy. "The first stage was to bring about stability followed by elections and formation of Assemblies. In the third stage, we were planning to move towards true democracy. But some elements are disrupting the move towards achieving full democracy," he said.
"The Supreme Court didn't even give a clear decision even after I was unofficially declared a winner after Presidential elections," he pointed out. "I had hoped that fair general elections will be held in Pakistan."
Musharraf said he is not someone to run from the battlefield. "I have brought Pakistan to this stage through seven years of hard work. I can't let that effort go waste."
Musharraf said a slide in the development of Pakistan was another reason behind his decision to clamp Emergency in the country.
"I feared that Pakistan's development was going down the drain. Foreign investment was suffering because of the recent instability. People were questioning why I wasn't acting against the destabilising forces in Pakistan. Things were going from bad to worse. Even in the media, some channels contributed to this downslide," he said.
The General accused a section of the media of not acting in a responsible manner. "Instead of solving the problems facing the country, a few news channels have added to those problems," he claimed.
Referring to the Lal Masjid crisis, Musharraf said the incident had brought ignominy to the nation and made him cut a sorry figure before the international community. "I was embarrassed. What to do in such a situation? Should I continue to bear the ignominy," he said.
Some of the militants who were freed by the Supreme Court could be behind the recent bomb blasts in Rawalpindi and Karachi, he said adding "who knows what they are going to do in future?"
Musharraf said the militants some nationals of China which is the 'best friend' of Pakistan. "Nothing could be more insulting for us," he added.
"I have declared Emergency to save Pakistan from complete derailment. But Assemblies will continue as before and peace will continue to prevail. This, in my view, is the correct way to keep Pakistan on the right track and on its path to democracy," Gen Musharraf said.