Benazir under house arrest again | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 14, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 14, 2007

Benazir under house arrest again

She says it's time for Musharraf to quit; Bush wants lifting of emergency before polls

Angry supporters of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto torch a car near her house in Lahore yesterday during protests against the State of Emergency.Photo: AFP

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was under house arrest yesterday, her residence surrounded by barbed wire and barricades in a tense new showdown with President Pervez Musharraf.
More than 1,000 police ringed the house in the eastern city of Lahore, where she had been planning to lead a mass procession against emergency rule, which was imposed 10 days ago.
Authorities banned the rally citing security fears and slapped a seven-day detention order on Benazir to prevent her galvanising popular support.
Benazir called on the international community to stop backing Pervez Musharraf, telling AFP yesterday it was time for him to quit as president and army chief.
"General Musharraf must quit. He must quit as president and as chief of army staff," she said in a telephone interview from house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore.
"I call on the international community to stop backing him, to stop backing the man whose dictatorship threatens to engulf this nuclear-armed state in chaos," Benazir added.
Benazir said she would never serve under Musharraf if she wins a third term as prime minister in elections that the military ruler has promised by January 9.
"I would not serve as prime minister under a man who has repeatedly broken his promises, who is a dictator," said Benazir, who had earlier this year been in power-sharing talks with Musharraf.
Benazir also said she wants to build an alliance with other political leaders including ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, her party quoted her as saying Tuesday.
"I would like to consult with all of them, including Nawaz Sharif," Benazir told reporters by telephone, according to a Pakistan People's Party spokesman holed up with her under house arrest in Lahore.
"I want to build an alliance, a single point agenda for the restoration of democracy," Benazir said.
International anger at the crisis mounted overnight, with the Commonwealth giving Musharraf 10 days to restore the constitution and lift other emergency measures or face Pakistan's suspension.
Double rolls of barbed wire encircled the residence where Benazir is staying in an upmarket area of Lahore, according to AFP reporters.
Wooden barricades provided a second layer of security, and heavy containers blocked off entrances to the house and both ends of the street. Police took up position behind sandbags.
"We have ensured that the orders are implemented and she does not leave the house," local police official Mohammad Abid told AFP.
"We have put up enough hurdles around the house to block any possibility of her leaving the place."
The rally, a mass procession from Lahore to the capital Islamabad, has been banned by authorities, who have warned of a possible suicide attack.
However, a close Benazir aide said she would still try to leave the house.
"They have their plans, we have our own plans," said the aide.
Pakistani authorities last Friday put Benazir under house arrest at her home in Islamabad to stop another anti-Musharraf protest.
The government says political rallies are banned under emergency rule, and that Benazir's protests are being prevented because of threats.
Suicide bombers killed 139 people at a parade in Karachi for her homecoming from self-exile on October 18.
"She is under detention for seven days in the house where she is presently staying," senior police officer Aftab Cheema told AFP. "We have displayed the order on the gate outside."
"She will not be allowed to break the law so there will be no long march," deputy information minister Tariq Azeem told AFP. "This is for her security."
Musharraf's military regime is struggling to contain a wave of anger over emergency rule, which has not eased despite his pledge of general elections by January 9.
"We will try to go out, we will try to go ahead with the march," Benazir's spokeswoman Naheed Khan told AFP.
She dismissed claims that the first female leader of an Islamic nation was under house arrest for her own protection.
"If the authorities know that the bombers are going to attack her, it is surprising that they cannot arrest them," she said.
On Monday she ruled out power-sharing talks with Musharraf and said she may boycott the upcoming elections as they would not be free or fair if held under emergency rule.
Her announcement has scuppered hopes in the West for an alliance between the charismatic democratic leader and the army strongman regarded by Washington as a bulwark against al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists.
The White House repeated that US President George W Bush wanted an end to emergency rule.
"Yes, the president thinks that we need to lift the emergency rule in order to have free and fair elections," a White House spokeswoman told reporters.
"The president thinks that we need to lift the emergency rule in order to have free and fair elections," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters as Bush returned to Washington from his Texas ranch on Monday.
President Pervez Musharraf must also shed his army uniform "since the president (Bush) thinks you can't be both president and the chief of the army," Perino said.
Bush is sending a special envoy to personally tell Musharraf that Washington wants emergency rule lifted ahead of January elections, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Further pressure came from the Commonwealth, which Monday gave Pakistan a 10-day deadline to restore its constitution and lift other emergency measures or face suspension from the 53-nation grouping.
The group suspended Pakistan in 1999 for five years after Musharraf seized power in a coup.
Japan, a major donor to Pakistan, said it may reduce aid. Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said he was concerned by the situation and Tokyo was studying how to respond.

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