11/09/2007, 00.00
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Bhutto under house arrest, “for her own safety”

The government yesterday arrested thousands of Pakistan’s Peoples Party supporters ahead of a rally called for by the ex premier who has been blocked within her house by police. Islamabad declares it fears suicide attacks.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistani police have surrounded the home of former premier Benazir Bhutto this morning, preventing her from participating in a mass rally against the state of emergency imposed by General Musharraf on November 3rd.  At the moment she is not under arrest: the government declares it is a “cautionary” measure taken to “guarantee her safety”.

The government has repeatedly stated that at the moment all public demonstrations are considered illegal.  The police, report human rights activists, yesterday arrested thousands of People’s Party supporters, who Bhutto had called to take to the streets in protest.  According to Islamabad, various terrorist groups had been planning to target the rally.

Saud Aziz, chief of police in Rawalpindi, says: “We have stopped at least 8 suicide bombers, who were preparing to detonate themselves in the middle of today’s demonstrations.  It’s clear that all forms of mass gatherings must be banned, given that anything can happen”.

In the meantime yesterday Musharraf declared that elections will go ahead on February 15th and added that he intends giving up leadership of the armed forces.  According to the opposition however, his declarations were “vague” and primarily aimed at placating the United States.  In fact yesterday, President Bush had called Musharraf to protest against his handling of the crises and to ask for a “rapid return to democracy”.



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