AP – Police lifted the house arrest of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, officials said today, hours before the arrival of a senior U.S. envoy who was expected to urge the country’s military leader to end emergency rule.
The move came after Bhutto – while still confined to a Lahore residence – urged fellow opposition leaders to join her in forming an alliance to govern until elections.
Despite Bhutto’s call, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has given no sign he will hand over power. He has named his own interim prime minister and was expected to announce Friday a caretaker Cabinet to oversee parliamentary elections promised by Jan. 9.
“The government has withdrawn the detention order,” Zahid Abbas, a senior police official, told an Associated Press reporter near the barricaded house where Bhutto has been confined for three days.
“The house is no longer a sub-jail but security will remain for her own protection. She’s free to move and anyone will be able to go to the house,” Abbas said.
Political unrest deepened yesterday as one of the country’s main Islamist parties called its first protests for Friday against the state of emergency, adding the voice of factions opposed to Musharraf’s alliance with the U.S. to the recent protests by lawyers, students and secular parties against military rule.
Also yesterday, two children and an adult were killed during a gunbattle between police and protesters in the southern city of Karachi – the first deaths during demonstrations since Musharraf suspended the constitution Nov. 3. Protests were reported in other cities and more party activists were arrested.
Bhutto outlined her plan for opposition factions to form a national unity interim government that could supplant Musharraf’s administration during a telephone interview with the AP.