Bhutto placed under house arrest again

The opposition leader planned to hold a massive march today anyway.

Published November 13, 2007

LAHORE, Pakistan - Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was placed under house arrest for the second time in four days to prevent her from staging a march today to protest emergency rule, police said. A close aide to the former prime minister said she would try to lead the 185-mile procession anyway.

The showdown intensified the political crisis engulfing Pakistan and further clouded the prospect of a pro-U.S. alliance against rising Islamic extremism forming between Bhutto and President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

The Bush administration is dispatching a high-level envoy to Pakistan to tell Musharraf, face to face, that the United States will not be satisfied with his plan to hold elections unless he first lifts the emergency law, administration officials said Monday.

While welcoming the news that Musharraf would hold elections in January rather than delay them, they questioned whether elections could be legitimate if held when the country remains effectively under martial law, with opposition parties in lockdown.

Aftab Cheema, the chief of operations of Lahore city police, said about 600 police had been deployed around Bhutto's house in Lahore and additional forces could be sent later today, when Bhutto was due to begin her procession to the capital, Islamabad.

The protest caravan was intended to pressure Musharraf to end the state of emergency he imposed on Nov. 3 and give up his post as army chief.

Police said they had ramped up security around Bhutto due to intelligence that a suicide bomber was planning to attack her in Lahore. Bhutto was targeted by an Oct. 18 suicide bombing attack on a homecoming procession in Karachi as she returned from years in exile. The attack killed 145 other people.

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.