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Bhutto Calls on Musharraf to Resign as President

“It is time for him to go. He must quit as president,” Bhutto, who had been holding power-sharing negotiations with Musharraf for months, told Reuters in a telephone interview with reporters.

Bhutto, a former Pakistani prime minister, was placed under house arrest Monday for seven days, hours before a planned procession to Islamabad to protest Musharraf’s recent imposition of emergency rule.

Bhutto said Musharraf appeared “out of his depth” and had “lost all credibility,” according to the Reuters report.

“I will not serve as prime minister as long as Musharraf is president,” she said.

“Negotiations between us have broken down over the massive use of police force … There’s no question now of getting this back on track because anyone who is associated with General Musharraf gets contaminated,” she said.

With the political turmoil continuing, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was headed to Pakistan and expected to reiterate Washington’s calls for Musharraf to lift the state of emergency, according to the AP.

Nearly 20,000 police were out in Lahore, according to Reuters, and about 4,000 of them are surrounding the house where Bhutto is staying, laying out coils of barbed wire and blocking streets with sand-laden trucks.

Bhutto also said it was now likely her Pakistan People’s Party would boycott January parliamentary elections and signaled interest in building an alliance with other opposition leaders, including longtime rival and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Associated Press reported. Sharif attempted to return to Pakistan in September but was immediately deported.

“Once I’m out, I intend to build a broad-based alliance with a one-point agenda to restore democracy,” Bhutto told reporters. “I will work with all political leaders … I will work with Nawaz Sharif.

“We may work side-by-side. The important thing is that we both believe democracy must be restored,” she said.

Musharraf has faced intense international and domestic criticism since imposing emergency rule Nov. 3 and suspending the constitution. Thousands of protesters, largely lawyers decrying Musharraf’s decision to oust top members of the judiciary, were detained and media access was curbed in the country.

Bhutto and her supporters had planned a protest procession to the capital, Islamabad. Despite Bhutto’s detention, some of her supporters apparently went ahead with the protest caravan without her.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, president of Bhutto’s party for Punjab, told the AP he was leading a column of 200 vehicles from Lahore.

The protest caravan is expected to take about three days, and Bhutto’s party predicted that thousands of supporters would join along the way.

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