This is from the Star.
Bhutto may actually be fortunate if Musharraf manages to stop her protest march. Any mass gathering will be a perfect target for Islamic extremists (and others) who want Bhutto dead. Maybe Bhutto is counting on being stopped. She may end up with another deal with Musharraf yet. Other opposition parties are not buying
the elections under emergency rule and the lawyers of course want the chief justice and others in their suits and ties to be released! Strange to see a whole street full of mostly men in suits shirts and ties being rounded up and roughed up by police.
LAHORE, Pakistan–Chanting supporters welcomed Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto to the city of Lahore yesterday, ahead of a mass protest she plans against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's emergency rule.
Waving the black, red and green flags of her Pakistan People's Party, hundreds of activists shouted "Benazir Prime Minister!" and "Long live Bhutto," thrusting their arms in the air and making V for victory signs.
Bhutto intends to lead a procession of marchers and vehicles to Islamabad tomorrow to demand Musharraf quit as army chief, end the emergency rule he imposed Nov. 3, restore the constitution and free thousands of detained lawyers and foes.
Police have vowed to block the protest, just as they stifled a planned rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Friday – when Bhutto was held under house arrest for most of the day.
"I am here for democracy," the former prime minister said on arrival at Lahore airport, where several hundred party activists and supporters managed to negotiate their way past barricades manned by police in riot vests wielding batons and shields.
Bhutto said she welcomed Musharraf's announcement yesterday that elections would be held Jan. 9, but it wasn't enough.
Reuters News Agency
Nov 12, 2007 04:30 AM
ISLAMABAD–It is a Pakistani crisis featuring Pakistani politicians, all of whom are angling to harden their hold on the reins of this volatile, nuclear-armed nation in a way that will not provoke the Pakistani people to rise up against them.
Why then, when beleaguered President Gen. Pervez Musharraf finally broke silence yesterday on the emergency rule he imposed eight days before – and to announce elections in January – did he explain his behaviour entirely in English?
One theory holds that if the president had chosen his native Urdu tongue, his words would have ebbed away like the sound of one hand clapping, given that so much of the Pakistani media have been silenced by Musharraf's crackdown there is now little left to convey them.
The truth, foreign diplomats here say, is not quite so deliciously ironic. After a weeklong drubbing in the global media, Musharraf pushed back against his critics over the heads of the Pakistani people with a message carefully calculated to quell the world's worry.
"I found myself between a rock and a hard surface," Musharraf said, caught between the choice "to preserve this nation, to safeguard it and to risk myself, or to let it go, hoping that the nation may improve later in the turmoil that one leaves."
But some observers say what is most telling isn't simply Musharraf's choice of words.
"The fact that his first public address since the imposition of emergency rule was given in English to a room full of foreign media says it all, really," one Western diplomatic source told the Toronto Star last night.
"You would think the average Pakistani would be quite incensed. Nevertheless, the meaning is clear. Musharraf has calculated – perhaps incorrectly – that his biggest worry is the external crisis, the international pressure. He has calculated that he still will be able to manage the internal crisis, so long as he retains two critical ingredients – the support of his army and the support of the American government."
Musharraf's headline announcement – a pledge to hold parliamentary elections by Jan. 9 – won warm welcome abroad, but only lukewarm praise within.
Opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto said the promise fell short, given the president's refusal to set a date for the repeal of emergency rule, restoration of the constitution and the reinstatement of deposed judges.
"It is not correct to say these steps defuse the situation," she said last night in Lahore, where she renewed a vow to lead a 300-kilometre protest march to the capital Islamabad tomorrow in what is expected to be a full mobilization of her Pakistan People's Party faithful.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was heartened by the election promise, but acknowledged the need for more concessions from Musharraf.
"It's not a perfect situation and nobody would suggest that it is," Rice told reporters in Washington.
"Obviously we are encouraging that the state of emergency has got to be lifted, and lifted as soon as possible."
The United States, which values Musharraf as an ally in its war on terror, has been increasing pressure on Musharraf to quit the army and become a civilian leader.
Pakistani journalist and author Zahid Hussein characterized Musharraf's address as "a move forward, no doubt. Finally the ambiguity is gone and we have a clear deadline for elections, which at least will defuse much of the international outcry.
"But when he turns around and looks back at Pakistan, he still has multiple crises on his hands rather than just a single crisis. Beneath this open-ended state of emergency, there is the growing militancy on the northern frontier with terrorists expanding their base of control. And on the other side, the opposition parties who simply will not accept the terms he described," said Hussein, author of the recently published Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam.
"I think Musharraf's camp estimates that once these elections get going, they will serve as a distraction to all the other very difficult problems. I'm not sure they are right. And the other question is how can fair elections happen under emergency rule?"
During his news briefing, Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, said he would order the release of detained opposition party members for the upcoming elections, adding that international observers would be invited to "ensure absolutely fair and transparent elections.
He also insisted the state of emergency was necessary.
"Certainly, the emergency is required to ensure peace in Pakistan, to ensure an environment conducive for elections," Musharraf said.
"It was the most difficult decision I have ever taken in my life," he told the news conference.
"I could have preserved myself, but then it would have damaged the nation ... I have no personal ego and ambitions to guard. I have the national interest foremost."
The Pakistani government says 2,500 people have been detained during the emergency.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, however, insists more than 5,000 of its activists have been rounded up.
Musharraf refused to set a time limit for the state of emergency, claiming it was essential for fighting terrorism and ensuring a free and fair vote.
"The emergency contributes towards better law and order and a better fight against terrorism, and, therefore, all I can say is I do understand the emergency has to be lifted, but I cannot give a date for it," he said.
Musharraf, who addressed the news conference wearing a dark blue blazer instead of his military uniform, was exceptionally obstinate on the question of restoring the deposed Supreme Court, which had been expected to challenge his victory in Oct. 6 presidential elections when it was dismissed.
A newly formed court is expected to take up the question and validate Musharraf's re-election as president. He declared yesterday he would then give up his uniform.