Rather than move towards returning their country to civilian rule, Pakistan's new military rulers have consolidated their grip on power. Yesterday's suspension of the constitution and declaration of a state of emergency suggests early elections are the last thing on the mind of hawkish army chief General Pervez Musharraf. He has declared himself supreme leader with the power to override the courts. The general is said to oppose holding any vote in the near future. Instead, his supporters talk of forming an interim government to rule for at least two years, with the military playing a dominant role. It is clear he would have liked to cover his actions with the fig leaf of parliamentary approval. But two days of efforts to persuade the National Assembly to legitimise Tuesday's coup led nowhere. So the army chief chose to act unilaterally in defiance of international opinion, which had been urging him at least to set a timetable for elections. Some will try to look on the bright side. They suggest that military rule will provide a stable time for rooting out corruption and introducing vital economic reforms. It is certainly true that, under former premier Nawaz Sharif's leadership, Pakistan was hardly an advertisement for democracy. That much was evident from the dancing in the streets following his dismissal and the fact that no one is calling for his return to power. But that does not mean suspending the constitution is the answer to Pakistan's problems. Far from it. For all his faults, Mr Sharif had begun moving in the right direction. Not least in ending a reckless venture by Islamic fighters into Indian-controlled Kashmir. That infuriated the general, who was involved closely in this operation. This is why there are now real fears about what Islamabad may do under his rule. Nor does he seem to have any clear idea how to tackle the urgent task of rescuing the economy. The coup has brought a suspension of International Monetary Fund aid and it will only be a matter of months before Pakistan's small reserves are exhausted. Since these fund essential imports, that would lead to shortages of everything from fuel to powdered milk. So far, there is no sign he will push through the vital reforms, such as privatisation, that Mr Sharif avoided repeatedly. Pakistan was already in a perilous condition after years of mismanagement. But yesterday's state of emergency, without any timetable for elections, has only made the situation worse.