Imran Khan's message from hiding: Rise up

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The Independent Online

The Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is to emerge from hiding today to call for a student uprising against General Pervez Musharraf's emergency rule.

"The students have to be mobilised to save the judiciary," Mr Khan said last night in an interview with The Independent from a secret location. "What Musharraf achieved by this emergency was to get rid of this judiciary. Even if he lifts the emergency and holds elections, they are going to be meaningless." He added: "We will still be stuck ... with pliant judges who endorse every illegal act of a dictator. And so people will be deprived of their fundamental rights, since the judiciary is not independent. There will be no one to protect the independent media. There will be no one to protect an independent electoral commission.

"Now they have passed an act where civilians can be tried in military courts." Mr Khan was forced into hiding amid a crackdown on opposition politicians and lawyers when a state of emergency was imposed on 3 November. He has been on the move ever since and changes mobile phones regularly.

He warned yesterday against continued international support for General Musharraf's increasingly unpopular regime. "The biggest mistake the West is making is backing one man at the cost of 160 million people," he said. "There is a danger of things turning out like they did for the Shah of Iran ... The pro-democracy movement will go anti-American."

While Mr Khan has long been critical of Benazir Bhutto's negotiations with General Musharraf, Mr Khan said that the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) – a coalition of opposition parties led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N – would join hands with the Pakistan People's Party leader if she boycotted the elections. "Musharraf has zero credibility left in Pakistan. While Benazir claimed to be negotiating a transition to democracy, all of us knew that he had no intention of leaving power. She was giving him a lifeline. She actually helped him. But if the PPP boycotts the polls, we will all join her," he said.

Mr Khan believes that he will "almost certainly" be arrested today when he arrives at the Punjab University campus in Lahore. "If I can't get away, at least there will be various tiers of command to continue the movement," he said. "Tomorrow is just the beginning."