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Pakistani to lock in changes, lift decree

Musharraf will end emergency rule but first aims to shield acts from court review.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - President Pervez Musharraf will end emergency rule tomorrow as promised, but first he will amend the constitution to protect his decisions from court review, Pakistan's attorney general said yesterday.

Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum said that government legal experts were completing work on the amendments and that the changes would be announced before the state of emergency is lifted. He provided no details.

"The president will lift the emergency to restore the constitution and the fundamental rights," Qayyum said.

Musharraf, who has acknowledged breaching constitutional protections, purged the judiciary, jailed thousands of opponents, and silenced television news channels after he suspended the constitution and declared emergency rule Nov. 3.

The U.S.-backed leader said he acted to prevent political chaos and to give authorities a freer hand against Islamic extremists. Critics accuse him of making a power grab before the old Supreme Court could rule on the legality of his continued rule.

Poll bodes trouble

A new opinion poll indicated 60 percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the job Musharraf is doing, a finding that could bode badly for his political party going into parliamentary elections Jan. 8 that will decide who forms the next government.

The poll by the U.S. government-financed International Republican Institute, a Washington group that has Republican lawmakers and officials among its directors and senior staff, said 31 percent of those surveyed felt former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was best suited to lead the country.

Some 25 percent backed another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and 23 percent chose Musharraf.

Bhutto and Sharif recently returned after living for years in exile. They hit the campaign trail this week after abandoning threats to boycott the election.


"No single party can steer Pakistan out of the present crisis," Bhutto said yesterday at a news conference in Karachi, "and the democratic forces should come forward and pressurize the present regime to hold free and fair elections."

While the two are united in their opposition to Musharraf, they are long political foes who already are squabbling about the best way to create an independent judiciary. Musharraf replaced purged judges with ones who have rejected all challenges to his October election to a new five-year term by the departing parliament, which was dominated by his loyalists.

In the latest violence, two suicide bombers attacked a military checkpoint in southwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing 10 people, officials said. The army said the assailants detonated their explosives near a line of vehicles in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province.