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Pakistan blocks defiant Bhutto with house arrest

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Police blocked former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto from leaving her home as she pleaded to be released from house arrest to lead a rally against President Pervez Musharraf.

Bhutto begged officers stationed around her compound to let her get to the planned demonstration in nearby Rawalpindi against Musharraf's nationwide state of emergency, but police served her with a house arrest order instead.

The United States has criticized the move saying that she must be "permitted freedom of movement." Ms Bhutto has vowed to wage a campaign aimed at forcing President Pervez Musharraf to stand down as army chief.

Police in Rawalpindi clashed with members of Ms Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) who were trying to defy a ban on rallies imposed under emergency rule.

Bhutto twice t ried to leave in her car, telling police: "Do not raise hands on women. You are Muslims. This is un-Islamic." They responded by blocking her way with an armored vehicle.

Bhutto, a former prime minister, had planned to defy a ban on public gatherings and address a rally in nearby Rawalpindi, where police used tear gas and batons to chase off hundreds of supporters who staged wildcat protests and hurled stones. More than 100 were arrested.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, a close Musharraf ally, said "She is restrained from leaving her house. The decision was conveyed to her because of the very serious and credible security threat of an attack on her."

A senior PPP leader, Senator Anwar Baig, said outside the compound: "This is illegal confinement. This is illegal detention of a democratic leader." Police meanwhile tear gassed workers from Bhutto's party in Rawalpindi, Peshawar and the northwestern town of Swabi, officials said.

Despite weeks of speculation about a power-sharing arrangement between them, Bhutto on Wednesday called for mass demonstrations against Musharraf over his decision last Saturday to declare a nationwide state of emergency.

Political gatherings were banned, the constitution was suspended, the chief justice -- a longtime Musharraf nemesis -- was sacked, and harsh curbs imposed on the media. Elections due in January have also been pushed back and will be held by mid-February, Musharraf said.

By FW Editor

Tags: premier, assasination, politics

Category: Others  - ( Others Archive)

Date Added: 05 March '10

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