November 13, 2007
Bhutto under house arrest - again
Opposition Benazir Bhutto is under house arrest again. The Pakistani authorities have detained Mrs. Bhutto, who was staying at a house in Lahore, in order to prevent her from leading a march from that city to Islambad:
Police officers surrounded the house where Ms. Bhutto was staying here and arrested party workers who tried to cross police lines to reach her.A similar scenario played out last week when Mrs. Bhutto attempted a demonstration against President Pervez Musharraf's State of Emergency. At that time, around 5,000 of her supporters were arrested to prevent the mass demonstration and Bhutto was confined to her house in Islamabad for more than 24 hours.
Riot policemen using barbed wire and dump trucks loaded with sand blocked off the neighborhood. “We will definitely try to come out,” said Farzana Raja, a party spokesman, referring to street protests. “She will definitely try to come out.”
Minutes later, the police arrested Ms. Raja and several dozen other party workers. With the police deployed across the city, it appeared that Ms. Bhutto’s supporters would again be blocked from demonstrating. Police officers arrested hundreds of workers from her political party around this city on Tuesday.
Riot police officers were deployed outside government buildings here as well, in anticipation of protests by Ms. Bhutto’s supporters.
This time, in order to prevent the march from Lahore to Islamabad, police and military closed off the roads leading into the city to keep masses of people from joining Mrs. Bhutto and her party loyalists. It is believed dozens were arrested at her safe house yesterday.
At this point, Musharraf seems to have the upper hand. He is willing to fill the jails of Pakistan with opposition workers and politicians in order to tamp down unrest. In this, he apparently has the backing of Washington although the Administration appears to be urging Musharraf to quickly conclude a power sharing deal with Bhutto and raise the State of Emergency so that elections can proceed normally.
Bhutto herself is being accused of making only "token" efforts at protesting the decree.:
Other opposition groups have accused her of mounting only token protests while negotiating a power sharing agreement with Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, at the urging of the United States.If true, the breakdown in power sharing talks means that other opposition parties, including Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, will almost certainly boycott the election if it is held under the emergency decrees. The two largest religious parties have already threatened such a boycott unless the decree is lifted. And Musharraf shows no willingness to do so as long as the opposition is determined to reinstate the Supreme Court judges who almost certainly will deny him his second term election victory based on the constitutional provision that prevents a candidate for president from serving as an active duty military officer.
Standing in front of police barriers, Yousuf Arza Giani, a party vice president, said the party had broken off all talks with the government. “It’s really bad, extremely bad,” he said.
Musharraf must get back to the bargaining table with Bhutto if he expects to continue serving as president. His position is deteriorating to the point that it is possible that the only way he will be allowed to stay in office is by maintaining the State of Emergency indefinitely. And it is not likely that the Pakistani military heirarchy will allow that to continue.