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Savior Bhutto in Solo Political Show
CAIRO — While almost all leading opposition figures were either in custody, under house arrest or in hiding, former prime minister Bhutto freely travelled from the southern city of Karachi to the capital Islamabad.
She reportedly flew into Islamabad to hold crisis talks with opposition leaders, none of them seems to be available for such talks.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the president of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal six-party religious alliance, has been placed under house arrest.
Ahmed is also the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Javed Hashmi, the acting chief of former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party, was arrested in a raid on his house in the central city of Multan.
Hashmi was freed by the independent-minded Supreme Court in July after three years in jail after being slapped with a 23-year term in 2004 on treason charges for criticizing the army.
Khawaja Asif, a firebrand central leader of the party, was also placed under house arrest.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, the leader of the Movement for Justice party, went into hiding one day after police placed him under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore.
Nationalist opposition leaders Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Qadir Magsi were detained in their home towns in southern Pakistan.
Ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and all other Supreme Court judges who refused to cow to the emergency rule have been placed under house arrest.
The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Aitzaz Ahsan, and other legal leaders including Munir A. Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd and Tariq Mehmood were also taken into custody immediately after emergency rule was imposed.
The four were counsels for Chaudhry when Musharraf first tried to sack him in March.
Thousands of lawyers who came out to protest the emergency rule have also been rounded up.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan from a private visit to Dubai only a few hours after Musharraf declared emergency.
She was allowed no the same way she was welcomed on October 18 after an eight-year self-exile under a US-brokered power-sharing deal with Musharraf.
Surprisingly, no rank or file of Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been arrested so far.
Police said Wednesday they would stop her planned rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Friday.
But her Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the country's biggest opposition party, is unfazed.
Bhutto has repeatedly called on Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, to restore the constitution, quit as head of the army and hold elections as promised in January.
She had been in talks with Musharraf for a power-sharing deal, an alliance sponsored by the US.
Bhutto told Time magazine on Tuesday that she was "not pulling any plug" on the negotiations with Musharraf.
Bhutto became the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim nation in 1988 following the death of military ruler General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq in a plane crash, the details of which remain sketchy to date.
She has twice been prime minister of Pakistan, first from 1988 to 1990 and then from 1993 to 1996.
Both governments were sacked by presidents Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari respectively, on charges of corruption, misuse of authority and extra judicial killings.
In April 1999, a court convicted Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari, of receiving kickbacks worth millions of dollars for awarding a contract to two Swiss firms during her 1993-96 tenure.
She left the country in the same year for self-imposed exile in London and Dubai with her three children before being joined by her husband after he was freed in 2004.
Bhutto was only able to return after Musharraf offered her an amnesty under the power-sharing deal.
Dropping corruption charges against her clears the way for Bhutto to stand in the next parliamentary elections.
Some observers believe she is being groomed by the US to take over from Musharraf, a close ally in Washington's so-called war on terror for six years.