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Pakistan paper credits

BBC Monitoring

Text of article by Ansar Abbasi, headlined "Nation has a near miss thanks to media hype", carried in English by Pakistan newspaper The News web site on 11 Aug

ISLAMABAD: What is being generally dubbed as media speculation seems to have averted the real imposition of emergency.

Even many journalists, including this correspondent, had bought the official claim that the emergency news was just a speculation and blamed the electronic media in particular for exaggeration. However, the facts as revealed now present an altogether different scenario.

A verbal decision for the imposition of emergency was taken. Concerned officials in the Cabinet Secretariat were called late in the evening and they remained in the office till mid-night on Wednesday. But it was the hype created by the electronic media, seen by many as irresponsible at that point of time, which forced the regime to change its mind.

The stage for the imposition of the emergency was all set though there are still some key links missing, raising the question if it was all stage-managed to create a scare or if it was a real life drama.

Concerned officials of the Cabinet Division, dealing with issuance of notifications on subjects like emergency, were all ready to blow the whistle. But, to the good luck of this country, it was never blown.

All the documentation was prepared but neither the president had signed any order for the imposition of emergency nor was any notification issued. Following the approval of the president, it is the Cabinet Division that issues a formal notification.

What seems extremely strange is the fact that while the Cabinet Division was all prepared to issue the order, the top aides of President General Pervez Musharraf were relaxing at their homes.

Both Chief of Staff to the President Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Javaid and Secretary National Security Council Tariq Aziz were at their respective residences when the electronic media broke the news of emergency. Both were contacted by this correspondent. Tariq Aziz categorically said that there! was no such thing in the offing. Hamid Javaid said that he heard the news from electronic media and discussed the matter with the president only next morning.

According to another source, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Ashfaq Kiani was in his office when the news about the emergency broke but he too was unaware of such a drastic move.

However, what is not clear at this stage as to how these three key officials were unaware of the major move while the Cabinet Division was all set to issue the formal order. May be, these officials kept "concealing" the facts from the approaching media persons about such a sensitive matter, but one of the two top presidential aides was crosschecked later by involving different sources and it was revealed that he genuinely believed that the media had been misled.

Another strange aspect of this whole situation is the fact that ruling PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was in the knowledge of the extraordinary happening. And it was basically ! he who told a number of journalists that the decision about the imposition of the emergency had already been taken.

Most of the television channels that night quoted, directly or indirectly, the PML chief while broadcasting news about the imposition of the emergency. It is not yet clear, however, as to who told Shujaat to disseminate this information to the media while many of those in the government were unaware about the final kill and were only dependent on the private television channels for updates.

Generally, after getting a clue from Chaudhry Shujaat, the electronic media focused on the emergency news that night with all channels coming up with more and more details. A mad race went on for several hours. Exaggerated information like the signing of the order for the emergency promulgation by the president was also disseminated but the over-all hype created by the media jolted the whole country and even sent alarming signals to the world capit! als including Washington.

The facts as being revealed sho w that the media-hype forced the government not to translate its decision into reality. Even if someone now believes that it was all a trial balloon then the stage was cleverly set in a manner to give it a real look. But one really doubts that those who have done exceptional blunders in the recent judicial crisis could have perfectly staged a drama.

Senior government leaders added to the confusion. For example, an official spokesman issued a statement around 12 Wednesday night that emergency was not being clamped this night. It also stated that the option of emergency exists in the Constitution.

Source: The News website, Islamabad, in English 11 Aug 07



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