KARACHI (Reuters) - Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto described the imposition of emergency rule by President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday as “mini-martial law” and vowed that her party would protest against it.
“This is a mini-martial law,” Bhutto said in a news conference in the southern city of Karachi a little over an hour after arriving back from Dubai, where she had been visiting her family. “We condemn this martial law. We will protest it.”
Musharraf earlier imposed emergency rule, deploying paramilitary troops and sacking a top judge in a bid to reassert his flagging authority against challenges from Islamist militants, hostile judges, and political rivals.
Bhutto had been negotiating with Musharraf over Pakistan’s transition to civilian-led democracy.
She returned from self-imposed exile last month without fear of prosecution in old corruption cases thanks to an amnesty granted by Musharraf.
The suicide attack that greeted Bhutto in Karachi, killing 139 supporters and members of her security team, shocked the country and the world.
There has been speculation that the pair could share power after elections that had been expected in January, if Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party performed well in the polls and Musharraf fulfilled a promise to quit as army chief.
Bhutto told the BBC that Musharraf would have to restore the constitution for her to work with him.
“He must restore the constitution for that to happen because the Pakistan People’s Party and I very strongly feel that Pakistan’s very future as a moderate state is at stake,” she said.
In an interview with Sky News, Bhutto accused Musharraf of breaking promises he had made in negotiations with her for a transition to democracy and said she was “bitterly disappointed” with what he had done.
She said she planned to hold talks with the leaders of other political parties on a strategy to reverse Musharraf’s suspension of the constitution.
She urged the world to pressure Musharraf to reverse his decision so that free and fair elections could be held.
“We’d like the international community to tell General Musharraf: Reverse your order suspending the constitution, reverse your order with regard to the judiciary and accept the decision of the court,” she said.
Bhutto said she believed emergency rule was designed to delay elections, due in January.
“I believe General Musharraf and people who are under him want to use this emergency to delay elections and they want to delay elections for at least one to two years,” she said.
Bhutto said she knew there were dangers in her returning to Pakistan and she did not know if she would be arrested.
“I am taking this risk for a much larger cause and that’s the cause of my nation,” she said.
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