Bhutto freed from house arrest

Move comes as Pakistan president appoints interim prime minister to oversee elections.

bhutto pakistan
Bhutto, right, was put under house before she could lead a rally against Musharraf [AFP]

“Police will remain [outside] for her security, but there will be no restriction on her movement.”
Interim premier
On Thursday, Musharraf appointed the chairman of the upper house senate as caretaker prime minister to oversee general elections.
Special report


Mohammadmian Soomro will head the interim line-up that will be sworn in on Friday, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, railways minister and a close Musharraf ally, said on Thursday.

Opposition leaders said no matter who heads the caretaker administration, elections that Musharraf has promised for early January will not be free and fair under emergency rule he imposed on November 3.


“We totally reject it. This appointment, in fact, is part of General Musharraf’s scheme to perpetuate his rule,” said Mushahidullah Khan, vice-president of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party.


‘Musharraf loyalists’


Soomro is a former banker. The full cabinet list would be issued later although television channels said several Musharraf loyalists had been appointed.

Musharraf’s presidential mandate expires on Thursday.
The president and his aides spent Wednesday on finalising the caretaker government as the current parliament’s five-year term also came to an end on the same day.
The government said Musharraf, as the incumbent, would remain in office as army chief and president until the supreme court rules on the legality of his victory in an October 6 presidential election.
Pakistan’s attorney-general said the decision was expected around the end of next week.
Bhutto-Sharif talks

Bhutto has called for a unity government in Pakistan and urged all opposition parties to come on board.

Your Views

“I am very worried and angry – Musharraf should realise that we don’t need him”
Avas, Islamabad, Pakistan

She also demanded that Musharraf steps down as president and said she would never serve as prime minister under him.

Bhutto left open the question of whether she, or someone else, would lead a unity government, saying it was a subject that would have to be worked out in negotiations.
But she said a consensus must be reached that would ensure an orderly transition should Musharraf agree to step down.
Bhutto and Sharif are reported to have already spoken about uniting against Musharraf.
The two spoke on Wednesday by telephone, officials from both parties said.
The two leaders have agreed to launch a “joint struggle” against Musharraf, said Raja Zafar-ul Haq, chairman of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party.   
A previous alliance between the two broke up over Bhutto’s contacts with Musharraf.

Musharraf imposed emergency rule on November 3, suspending the constitution, getting rid of hostile judges, rounding up thousands of opponents and curbing the media.

The opposition, most of whom are either detained, exiled or under house arrest, are considering whether to boycott of the polls, saying they can be neither free nor fair under the state of  emergency.
‘Courtesy call’
Meanwhile, a US diplomat was allowed on Thursday to cross the barricades and heavy police cordon surrounding the house in Lahore where Bhutto had been confined.
Sherry Rehman, a Bhutto spokeswoman, said Bryan Hunt, the US consul-general in Lahore, was making merely a “courtesy call” on Bhutto.

Imran Khan was held in Lahore after he joined
a student demonstration on Wednesday [AFP]

However, it comes a day after the White House issued a blunt call for Musharraf to relent and on the eve of the US deputy secretary of state’s visit.

John Negroponte, who last week cautioned against cutting aid to an “indispensable” ally, is due in Pakistan this week.
Another opposition figure contacted by Bhutto earlier in the week, Imran Khan, the former cricket captain, was moved to Lahore’s biggest prison early on Thursday after being charged under anti-terror laws for  protesting against emergency rule.
Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Islamabad, said on Thursday that two of Khan’s sisters and at least thirty other women have been arrested while protesting in Lahore.
Boys killed
In a separate development, two boys were killed when gunfire erupted in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi during a protest by Bhutto’s supporters.
The deaths were the first since Musharraf imposed the state of emergency.
Fayyaz  Khan, a Karachi police official, said: “There was a demonstration against the house arrest of Benazir Bhutto. Somebody among the demonstrators opened fire and two boys aged around 11 or 12 were killed.”
Khan said there had been gunfire for the past three days during rallies by the PPP in the neighbourhood of Lyari, a party stronghold.
Ijaz Durrani, a PPP spokesman, denied any of its supporters had opened fire and suggested the involvement of undercover police. He had earlier blamed a local drug mafia.
Durrani said: “Our protesters came under attack, maybe some policemen in civilian clothes could be involved in the firing. We are investigating but we suspect police involvement.
“We do not believe in gun culture. Our people were peaceful, they never indulge in such incidents.”
Source: News Agencies


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