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Pakistan government says it will not allow Bhutto procession

Pakistan government says it will not allow Bhutto procession

Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will not be allowed to hold a protest procession across Pakistan because it would violate a ban on political rallies imposed under the current state of emergency, a government spokesman said Monday.
"All processions, rallies, political gatherings at present are outlawed," Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim told The Associated Press. "So if she breaks the law then obviously she will not be allowed to do it."
Bhutto was due to leave the eastern city of Lahore on Tuesday morning for the capital, Islamabad. The 300-kilometer (185-mile) journey was expected to take about three days, and her party says thousands of supporters were expected to join her en route.
The caravan was meant to pressure President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to end the state of emergency he imposed on Nov. 3 that suspended the constitution, and also to give up his post as army chief.
Azim declined to give details about what steps authorities might take against Bhutto. He said that law enforcers would "take the necessary action as it happens."
Earlier Tuesday, police ramped up security for Bhutto, saying they had received intelligence that a suicide bomber was planning to attack her in Lahore.
Bhutto was targeted in an Oct. 18 suicide attack on her homecoming procession from exile to the southern city of Karachi, killing 145 other people.
She was kept under house arrest in Islamabad last Friday to prevent her from addressing a rally in the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, where authorities also warned they had intelligence that suicide bombers were loose in the area.
Hundreds of police have been deployed in the streets around the Lahore house where Bhutto is currently staying, and sharpshooters are on surrounding rooftops. The road leading to the house is barricaded.
Any move to block the former prime minister would escalate political tensions and cast fresh doubt on a possible alliance between Musharraf and Bhutto, which Pakistan's Western allies hope could help combat religious extremism after parliamentary elections due in January.
On Monday, Bhutto welcomed Musharraf's commitment to holding elections on time, but joined other opposition leaders in questioning whether free and fair elections would be possible under emergency rule.
"In the given circumstances, boycotting elections could be an option," she told reporters. "We will consult the other political parties."


Updated : 2021-10-29 02:13 GMT+08:00