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Violence Erupts After Bhutto's Arrest
Pakistani Police Barricade Opposition Leader In Her House; Explosion At Minister's Home Kills 4
The United States urged Pakistan to end the house arrest of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as Pentagon leaders voiced concern that the political turmoil will undercut the Pakistani army's fight against insurgents along the Afghanistan border.
"We remain concerned about the continued state of emergency and curtailment of basic freedoms, and urge Pakistani authorities to quickly return to constitutional order and democratic norms," Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council said in a statement Friday.
"Former Prime Minister Bhutto and other political party members must be permitted freedom of movement and all protesters released," said the statement by Johndroe, who accompanied President George W. Bush to the president's Texas ranch.
The administration said it is important for Pakistan's future that moderate political forces be able to work together to put Pakistan back on a path to democracy.
Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim said there was a restraining order against Bhutto, telling her to stay at her Islamabad home and not proceed to Rawalpindi because of the security threat. The city mayor said they had reports suicide bombers might attack the rally.
"I expect that (the order) is all over by now," Azim told The Associated Press. "She will be free to move tomorrow."
Pakistani police backed by armored vehicles placed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest in Islamabad Friday and reportedly rounded up 5,000 of her supporters to block a mass protest against emergency rule.
Bhutto tried twice to leave by car but was blocked by police amid scuffles with her supporters who tried to remove barricades. The former prime minister had planned to address a rally in nearby Rawalpindi, defying a ban on public gatherings.
Police parked an armored personnel carrier in the street to block Bhutto's white Landcruiser. Bhutto got out of the vehicle and stood alongside dozens of supporters who shouted "Go Musharraf Go!" in reference to Pakistani President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Meanwhile, a bomb explosion at the home of a government minister in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed at least four people, police said.
The attack happened at the residence of the minister for political affairs, Amir Muqam, and also wounded three people, said Aslam Khan, a local police official.
Muqam said he saw two or three dead in the blast - members of his security staff. Police said the bombing was a suicide attack.
Kamal Shah, a top Interior Ministry official, said a district magistrate had served a "detention order" on Bhutto so she could not leave her home. Rehman, however, said no arrest papers had been served on Bhutto.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that officials did try to serve arrest papers to Bhutto, but she refused to take them and went back inside. According to the BBC report, the detention order is valid for 30 days.
Speaking by phone from the scene, Bhutto said that no arrest papers had been served on her.
"If I'm arrested the People's Party of Pakistan workers will continue to fight for democracy and the rule of law," she told reporters who heard the call via speakerphone.
CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports Bhutto's home was surrounded by armed security forces, armored vehicles and barbed wire in the early morning hours.
Authorities were adamant the rally Bhutto planned in nearby Rawalpindi would not go ahead - under the government's emergency powers declared a week ago, mass gatherings are banned. Mayor Javed Akhlas also said there was a "credible report" of six or seven suicide bombers in the city.
News video showed police clashing with Bhutto supporters in Rawalpindi and in Peshawar, and there were reportedly dozens of new arrests made.
Bhutto supporters pulled at a barbed wire barricade on the street to make way for her vehicle, but were blocked by police, the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media. Bhutto's vehicle only managed to travel about 40 yards before it was stopped.
"We are trying to pass through because we want to reach Rawalpindi. There was a baton charge. There was a barbed wire. People in Kashmir were also stopped from reaching here. Those who can reach Rawalpindi, they should try to reach there," Bhutto later told private Geo TV.
"The government says that some suicide bombers have entered Islamabad. If they have any such information, then why can't they arrest them?" she said.
MacVicar says Bhutto's house was surrounded not just by security forces, but by media and curious members of the public as well. Friday is a national holiday in Pakistan, so the streets in general were quieter than normal, MacVicar adds.
Rawalpindi, hit by a series of suicide attacks targeting the military, had hundreds of riot police on the streets Friday, moving through the city while other security personnel patrolled on motorcycles, horseback and in armored vehicles.
"Since the government has not given permission for it due to security reasons, we will not allow any one to gather here for the rally," the city's police chief, Saud Aziz, told The Associated Press.
Aziz also said police were on the lookout to deter against the "serious" threat of potential suicide bombers.
Streets normally jammed with people stood empty, shops were closed and the road leading from Islamabad to Rawalpindi had been blocked by two tractor trailers and a metal gate.
Pakistan's military leader showed no signs of letting up on his political foes despite his announcement Thursday - following pressure from the U.S. and other Western allies - that elections would go ahead by mid-February, just a month later than originally planned.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, or PPP, claimed Friday that authorities had arrested 5,000 of its supporters in the last three days across the eastern province of Punjab, where Rawalpindi is located.
"It is a massive crackdown on our party," said Raja Javed Ashraf, a PPP lawmaker.
The government offered no immediate public comment. But the security official said only 1,000 Bhutto supporters had been detained.
Information Minister Tariq Azim said "we will not allow any leader to carry out any rally".
Musharraf has been under pressure to quickly hold elections and step down as the country's army chief since he suspended the constitution and took other emergency measures, saying they were needed to put an end to political instability and to fight Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants.
Thousands of lawyers and opposition parties activists have been rounded up countrywide, and police using batons and tear gas have squashed attempts by lawyers to protest on the streets.
President Bush, who counts the Pakistani leader as a key ally in the war on terrorism, telephoned Musharraf to urge him to restore democracy, and the White House was quick to hail Thursday's pledge to hold elections by mid-February.
Some Pakistani officials earlier said elections could be delayed by up to a year.
But Bhutto on Thursday dismissed the announcement and demanded Musharraf give up his second post as army chief within a week. She said Friday's protest would go ahead despite warnings it could be targeted by suicide bombers.
"We want an election date, we want a retirement date" for Musharraf to quit his powerful military post, Bhutto told reporters. "This is a vague statement. We want the uniform off by Nov. 15."
Bhutto had been in U.S.-backed talks with Musharraf on a post-election political alliance. But she pulled back after the emergency was imposed, and her decision to join in anti-government protests was another blow for Musharraf, who has seen his popularity slide this year amid growing resentment of military rule and increasing violence by Islamic militants.
Critics argue that Musharraf - who seized power in a 1999 coup - declared the emergency and ousted independent-minded judges to maintain his own grip on power. The moves came days before the Supreme Court was expected to rule on whether his recent re-election as president was legal.
Bhutto returned to the country from eight years in exile to contest the parliamentary polls. Her homecoming procession in Karachi was shattered by suicide bombers, leaving more than 145 people dead. She escaped injury. Islamic militants were widely blamed.
© 2007 CBS News
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