کور / تازه خبرونه / Bhutto rejoins Pakistan protests

Bhutto rejoins Pakistan protests

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Journalists across Pakistan on Saturday were protesting President Pervez Musharraf’s imposed state of emergency and media blackout, a day after a planned opposition rally was crushed by government security forces.



The media blackout imposed on all independent news channels since November 3 has limited broadcasts of the festering political crisis, although anyone with satellite service can receive some of the barred networks, which include CNN.


Meanwhile, the offices of Pakistan’s attorney general Malik Mohammed Qayyum told CNN Saturday the emergency declaration will be lifted within one month, but he would not say when a formal announcement might come.


Pakistani police pushed into a press building filled with protesting journalists in the northeastern city of Peshawar Saturday, and in Lahore police have surrounded another press building, journalists inside the buildings told CNN.


In Islamabad, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto joined another group of protesting journalists shortly after leaving her villa compound a day after government forces prevented her from leaving, party officials said.


Aides said the opposition leader was en route to visit the home of suspended chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. She was also planning to meet officials from her Pakistan People’s Party, civil society leaders and foreign diplomats.


Bhutto on Friday was prevented from leaving her residential grounds due to concrete barriers and barbed wire erected by security forces to prevent her appearance at an outlawed anti-government rally.


“I am very happy to learn that the barbed wire and barricades have been removed and I am now going to the (PPP) party office to meet with civil society (representatives),” she said.


The rally, slated to take place in nearby Rawalpindi, was organized in response to Musharraf’s s emergency rule, which he imposed last weekend saying it was needed to crack down on Islamic terrorists massing strength in volatile tribal regions along the Afghan border.


The order, effectively suspending upcoming parliamentary elections, the constitution and top judge has been widely criticized as a step back from democracy. His secular opponents, the target of widespread arrests and detentions, say it amounts to martial law in Pakistan.


The United States and other foreign allies are pressuring Musharraf to end the state of emergency and set a date for elections, originally scheduled for January.


Musharraf on Thursday announced that parliamentary elections will be held by February 15 and restated his pledge to step down as the country’s military leader. Before the emergency order, he had been scheduled to be sworn in on November 15 and had pledged to step down as military chief after that date.


Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the ruling, pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League, told CNN on Thursday the state of emergency in Pakistan would remain in effective for at least a month. He provided no further details and would not say when a formal announcement might come.


The White House called Musharraf’s announcement a positive first step, but on Friday issued another call for Musharraf to switch course.


In a written statement Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said, “We remain concerned about the continued state of emergency and curtailment of basic freedoms, and urge Pakistan’s authorities to quickly return to constitutional order and democratic norms.”


The subsequent repression of pro-democracy supporters aligned with Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party intensified Friday.


A bomb blast at the house of a Pakistani government minister in the northern city of Peshawar killed at least four people and wounded several others. It marked the first known deadly violence since Musharraf implemented the nationwide crackdown on dissent.


In Rawalpindi — a city outside Islamabad where Pakistan’s military is based — Pakistani security forces fired tear gas and wielded batons in efforts to disperse the growing crowds of opposition members massing in Pakistan’s Punjab and North West Frontier Province in defiance of a government ban on public gatherings Friday, police sources told CNN.


Police sources told CNN all highways feeding into the city from Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) were barricaded and closed, with police and army rangers posted heavily throughout.


Also Friday, government forces fought to crush a rally planned in the city of Rawalpindi and blocked Bhutto from leaving her home in Islamabad to attend the rally. It was lifted later that day.


In enforcing the emergency order, Pakistani forces have arrested thousands of opposition leaders, lawyers, and human rights activists.


In a statement, a spokeswoman with Bhutto’s party on Friday said more than 5,000 opposition workers were arrested and the number was expected to rise.


“Thousands of PPP workers have gone underground. Roads are blocked,” the statement said, adding more than 25 PPP parliament members were detained in various police stations in Rawalpindi as they arrived from other provinces.


The previous day, five opposition politicians — including the head of the National Party — were charged with treason in Karachi, a government official told CNN.


With unrest on Pakistan’s streets, the Bush Administration has been using satellites and human intelligence to keep a closer eye on the country’s nuclear weapons, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials.


“Any time there is a nation that has nuclear weapons that is experiencing a situation such as Pakistan is at present, that is of primary concern,” said Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, director for operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington.


The United States’ official position is that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure, but CNN has been told by a U.S. intelligence official that Musharraf in recent days has stepped up security at nuclear sites in response to information on a possible threat.


The official offered few details and wouldn’t say whether the United States thought the threat was genuine and if the extra security was ordered before or after Musharraf declared a state of emergency.

.