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Benazir calls for street protests

November 07, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto on Tuesday called upon the people to come out on streets for the restoration of democracy.

“I appeal to the nation to join the protest (against the imposition of emergency) and show their power. When people will come out, pressure will mount. The people will have to fight for the restoration of the Constitution and democracy and to save the country,” Ms Bhutto told reporters at her residence here after arrival from Karachi.

She said her Nov 9 public meeting at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi would now be a show of protest, and not part of the election campaign as announced earlier.

The PPP chairperson said her party would not attend the National Assembly session on Wednesday as she believed the present assemblies were only there to strengthen dictatorship. Instead, she said, her party leaders and activists would hold a demonstration outside the parliament house soon after the start of the assembly session.

She criticised the government for arresting Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and other judges, recalling that it was the second time during Gen Musharraf’s rule that judges had been expelled. She claimed that more than 50 per cent of the arrested lawyers belonged to the PPP.

In reply to a question, Ms Bhutto said talks with Gen Musharraf were only aimed at the restoration of democracy. She termed the election of Gen Musharraf “illegal” and said she had advised him not to seek re-election from the present assemblies, but he had put the nation and himself into a blind alley.

“We were deliberately put into a blind alley,” she said. She termed reports of a meeting with Gen Musharraf as part of a “disinformation campaign.”

The PPP chairperson said she was grateful to the international community for opposing the imposition of emergency and thus supporting the people of Pakistan and not an individual. She condemned the curbs on media and called for an immediate lifting of the emergency.

In reply to a question about her relationship with the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), she referred to her recent meeting with Senator Ishaq Dar in Dubai and said she had been waiting for a response from the PML (N).

She said she was also in contact with other opposition parties to prepare a joint strategy to resist the emergency and hoped the PML-N would soon rejoin the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy.

In response to a question, Ms Bhutto said she had invited the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal to join the protest against the emergency to prove that the MMA wanted restoration of the Constitution and elections in time.

The PPP chairperson, who is expected to stay in the capital for five days, will preside over a meeting of the ARD at her party’s central secretariat on Wednesday morning.

A PPP source told Dawn Ms Bhutto would meet heads of all foreign missions based in Islamabad. He said her party’s foreign liaison committee had arranged a reception for the high commissioners and ambassadors of 75 countries at the parliament house on Nov 10 during which Ms Bhutto would apprise the diplomats about her party’s position on the current situation.

Meanwhile, PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband telephoned Ms Bhutto on Monday and discussed the prevailing political situation in Pakistan.