Pakistani authorities say they have released some three-thousand-four-hundred people detained under the emergency rule decree of President Pervez Musharraf. Javid Iqbal Cheema, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, said he did not know when the estimated two-thousand remaining detainees will be released.
Meanwhile, emergency rule remains in effect and arrests continue. More than one-hundred journalists protesting emergency rule and curbs on the media were arrested in Karachi and Hyderabad. Most were later released. Baton-wielding police broke up a peaceful demonstration outside the Karachi press club. Five journalists were reportedly injured. Newspaper editors say they are being pressured by Pakistani authorities to mute criticism of the government. Some private television news channels, such as ARY TV and GEO TV, remain off the air.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte met with President Musharraf to discuss U.S. concerns about Pakistan. Mr. Negroponte said the U.S. wants an end to the detentions and restrictions on the media:
“I urged the government of Pakistan to stop such actions, to lift the state of emergency and release all political detainees. Emergency rule is not compatible with free, fair, and credible elections.”
Credible elections, he said, “require the active participation of political parties, civil society, and the media.” Mr. Negroponte also urged President Musharraf, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and other political leaders to redouble their efforts at political reconciliation:
“If steps were taken by both sides to move back towards the kinds of reconciliation discussions that they had been having previously, we think that would be very positive and could improve the political environment.”
Political reconciliation and a return to civilian rule, said Mr. Negroponte, are essential if Pakistan is to prevail against the extremists responsible for bloodshed in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and elsewhere. “The best way for any country to counter violent extremism is to develop and nurture a moderate political center,” he said.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte said, “engagement and dialogue – not brinksmanship and confrontation – should be the order of the day for all parties.”