کور / تازه خبرونه / Pakistan police block Bhutto

Pakistan police block Bhutto


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Police blocked opposition leader Benazir
Bhutto from visiting Pakistan’s deposed chief justice on Saturday, as President
Pervez Musharraf resisted U.S. calls to end emergency rule.


Bhutto, who herself was kept under house arrest for most of
Friday, tried to approach former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s home, where
he is being detained, but police parked two trucks on the road to block her
path.


.



Photo


After imposing emergency rule and suspending the constitution a
week ago citing a hostile judiciary and rising militancy, General Musharraf
sacked most of the Supreme Court’s judges and has since replaced them with more
amenable ones.


“He is the chief justice, he is the real chief justice,” Bhutto
blared over a megaphone, demanding they all be reinstated.


Bhutto will defy Musharraf and go ahead with a pro-democracy
motorcade from Lahore to Islamabad next week, after police scotched a protest by
her Pakistan People’s Party in the garrison town of Rawalpindi adjoining
Islamabad on Friday.


On Friday, police used batons and teargas to break up small
protests in several parts of the country, but demonstrations have been
relatively small by Pakistani standards.


Pakistan’s slide into political uncertainty has accelerated over
the past week with military chief Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule
scaring foreign investors and spooking domestic markets. Thousands of Musharraf
opponents have been arrested.


Bhutto, the Pakistani politician most able to mobilize masses, was
due to meet foreign diplomats later in the day.


She briefly joined journalists protesting outside the offices of a
television channel against a blackout on private news broadcasts. BBC and CNN
are also off the air, though newspapers are still publishing freely.


Bhutto is due to head to Lahore on Sunday, and has said Musharraf
can defuse the protest if he restores the constitution, removes his army uniform
and calls elections by mid-January.


Musharraf has said elections will be held by February 15, about a
month later than they were due. He also said he would quit as army chief and be
sworn in as a civilian president once new judges appointed to the Supreme Court
struck down challenges against his re-election.


Officials say Musharraf will likely keep the emergency short.


“The emergency will end within a month or two. It all depends on
the law and order situation,” said Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum.


Bhutto has been holding power-sharing talks with Musharraf for
months and political analysts say cooperation between the pair — which the
United States was earlier said to have been encouraging — is still
possible.


FOREIGN PRESSURE


The United States kept up pressure on Musharraf, who took power in
a bloodless 1999 coup and is regarded as a close ally in the fight against al
Qaeda and the Taliban, calling for an end to emergency rule he imposed a week
ago citing a hostile judiciary and rising militancy.


“Free and fair elections require a lifting of the state of
emergency,” said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National
Security Council.


The United States also called for the release of political party
members and peaceful protesters, he said.


An Interior Ministry spokesman said 2,500 people had been detained
since the emergency was declared, though Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party say
5,000 of their activists have been picked up over the past few days.


President George W. Bush has said Musharraf can’t be army chief
and president at the same time.


But many ordinary Pakistanis doubt Musharraf will follow through
on his pledge, saying quitting as army chief would erode his authority in the
nuclear-armed state.


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday he was
concerned instability could distract Pakistani forces who have been fighting
Islamists in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan — an area in which Osama bin
Laden is believed to be hiding.


(Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony and Rehmatullah Mehsud;
Editing by Robert Birsel)

.