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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's mighty military has been handed a raft of powers that critics say will deprive citizens of their freedom to challenge authority. The move "empowers the army to implement a mini martial law and suspends the fundamental rights of citizens," lawyer and talk show host Fawad Chaudhry told NBC News on Friday. "It doesn't let the courts, or anyone else for that matter, challenge anything the soldiers do," added the former adviser to the ex-military dictator Pervez Musharraf.

An official from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's office countered that enforcing the "Aid to Civil Power" clause from the constitution will allow the army to better help the government keep order. "This may include sensitive and strategic government buildings and installations," said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A senior military official told NBC News that the deployment was broader. "This is to preempt retaliation and blowback from our ongoing operation in Waziristan... This [law] just gives us legal cover for that duty," he said, referring to an ongoing operation aimed at routing militants on the Afghan border.


- Wajahat S. Khan