Friday, November 9, 2007

US worries over Pakistan crackdown.

Given the desire of so many to assasinate Bhutto she may be just as well off not going to large demonstrations. They missed her last time but next time she may not be so lucky. The more mayhem and chaos the better the radical Islamists will like it.
Given Musharaff's treatment of the lawyers they are not likely to want to negotiate with him right now. There could be just more violence unless the opposition cools down. They are playing into the hands of the Islamists as it is now.
Strange the perspective reporters have, as if it is what the US thinks that is important and only that perhaps!


US worries rise over Pakistan crackdown
Staff and agencies
09 November, 2007





By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, Associated Press Writer 16 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan quickly ended house arrest for opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Friday as President Gen. Pervez Musharraf came under new U.S. pressure to end a crackdown that Washington fears is hurting the fight against Islamic extremism.

The action was a new blow to hopes the two U.S.-friendly leaders could form an alliance against militants — a rising threat underlined by a suicide bombing in northwest Pakistan that targeted the home of a Cabinet minister, who escaped without injury.

In Rawalpindi, the nearby garrison town where she had hoped to stage the rally, police fired tear gas at hundreds of Bhutto loyalists who staged wildcat protests and hurled stones. More than 100 were arrested.

In Washington, where some lawmakers are calling for aid to Pakistan to be curtailed, U.S. officials again criticized Musharraf‘s crackdown.

As Musharraf‘s chief international backer, the Bush administration is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 160 million people that is on the front lines of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorist groups.

Musharraf cited the gains by extremists in the frontier region as one of the main reasons for his emergency decree, saying political unrest was undermining the fight against militants.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the turmoil could undermine the battle against Pakistani insurgents.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again expressed concern over Musharraf‘s emergency rule and urged the immediate release of all those detained, the lifting of restrictions on the media and a return to democratic rule, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The discontent could leave Islamic militants even stronger, analysts said.

Bhutto‘s detention, if only for a day, showed Musharraf has no intention of easing the crackdown despite saying Thursday that parliamentary elections would be held by mid-February, just a month later than originally planned. The announcement came after intense pressure from the U.S.

The move against Bhutto further harmed prospects for a Bhutto-Musharraf alliance that Washington has been pushing for.

"I worked out a road map with Gen. Musharraf for a peaceful transition to democracy and I‘m very disappointed that though there is a peaceful way, he chose the nonpolitical path," Bhutto told a few dozen supporters after her second foiled attempt to get out of her villa.

Dozens of police, some in riot gear, kept a wary eye on her supporters, who repeatedly tried to remove the barbed wire and steel and concrete barriers ringing Bhutto‘s house. At least 30 of her loyalists were arrested, including a woman carrying flowers.

Dressed in a blue tunic and her trademark white head scarf, Bhutto twice tried to leave for Rawalpindi inside a white Landcruiser with tinted windows, surrounded by about 50 supporters, including several lawmakers.

After being turned back the second time, her way blocked by an armored vehicle, she got out of the car and joined her supporters, who chanted "Go, Musharraf, go!"

"I want to tell you to have courage because this battle is against dictatorship and it will be won by the people," Bhutto said as police stood guard nearby.

Her supporters said they would only be further emboldened by Friday‘s clampdown.

"We will not go away. Our party activists have been mobilized to move out and take to the streets," said Abida Hussain, a former ambassador to the United States.

Authorities appeared determined to stop them. Bhutto‘s party claimed Friday that 5,000 of its supporters had been arrested over the preceding three days across the eastern province of Punjab. Security officials said 1,100 had been detained.

In Rawalpindi, the normally bustling city near Islamabad where Bhutto had planned to hold her rally Friday, hundreds of police kept a tight grip on the largely empty streets and moved quickly against any hint of protest.

Small bands of protesters threw stones and set piles of garbage and tires on fire, while police fired tear gas shells from an armored personnel carrier.

There were also scattered protests in Peshawar and Karachi, where opposition supporters blocked some roads with burning tires.

___

Associated Press writers Zarar Khan and Stephen Graham in Rawalpindi, Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Munir Ahmad in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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