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Bhutto Prepares To March Against Emergency Rule


Pakistan's Bhutto Prepares 'Long March' Against Emergency Rule

Pakistan says opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will not be allowed to hold a Lahore-to-Islamabad motorcade protest against emergency rule.

Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azeem says rallies and protests are banned under the state of emergency. He says the ban is also designed to protect her against terrorist attacks.

Police have been deployed around the residence in Lahore where Ms. Bhutto is staying.

Ms. Bhutto said earlier she would depart Tuesday with her protest caravan to pressure President Pervez Musharraf to restore the constitution and resign as army chief of staff. The motorcade was to begin in Lahore and end a few days later in the capital, Islamabad.

Riot police prevented Ms. Bhutto from addressing a rally in Rawalpindi on Friday, surrounding her home in Islamabad with barbed wire and barricades.

Ms. Bhutto was the target of a twin suicide attack in Karachi just hours after she returned to Pakistan in October, ending eight years of exile. She was not hurt, but nearly 140 people were killed.

While she welcomed President Musharraf's announcement on Sunday that parliamentary elections will be held by January ninth, she vowed she would continue to rally her supporters, saying elections will be meaningless if held under a state of emergency.

General Musharraf has said he will step down as army chief and be sworn in as a civilian president as soon as Pakistan's Supreme Court rules on legal challenges to his October election victory.

The previous Supreme Court was disbanded under his emergency declaration, which also resulted in the arrests of thousands of opposition activists and a blackout of independent news broadcasts.

ENDS

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