Musharraf entrenching army rule in Pakistan: rights group

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A leading human rights group accused President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday of derailing Pakistan’s return to civilian-led democracy and entrenching military rule.

Shortly after Musharraf invoked emergency powers and suspended the constitution, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement saying the move was meant to control increasingly independent judges.

“This is a shameless attempt to prevent Pakistanis from enjoying their basic rights under the law and a brazen attempt at muzzling the judiciary,” the statement said.

The Supreme Court was in the midst of hearing challenges to Musharraf’s Oct 6. re-election by parliament while still army chief, and there had been speculation the general would impose an emergency if the court ruled against him.

HRW also attacked the United States for backing the army chief who seized power in a coup eight years ago and later became a crucial ally after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“U.S. policy on Pakistan has not only been flawed, it now appears to have failed. U.S. support for a coup-maker has only deepened Pakistan’s political crisis,” the statement said.

The United States has been encouraging Musharraf to guide Pakistan into elections, expected in January, that were supposed to mark a transition to civilian-led democracy.

Pakistan has been ruled by generals for more than half the 60 years since the country was formed following the partition of India.