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Pakistani Police Clash Anew With Opposition Protesters

Pakistani police blanketed the site of a major anti-government protest rally Friday and barricaded opposition leader Benazir Bhutto inside her home to prevent her from joining the demonstration. Experts assess the latest developments in country's political crisis.

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  • LINDSEY HILSUM, ITV News Correspondent:

    Prepared for anything, this morning, the Pakistan police headed for Rawalpindi where Benazir Bhutto had called for a massive anti-government rally. But at the park where it was due to happen, no one, nothing.

    The hawks circled. The cavalry were at ease. Police had blocked the roads into the town, and hundreds of Bhutto's supporters were arrested overnight. The leader herself was behind barbed wire, confined to her house down an Islamabad side street, besieged by police, and feted by small bands of supporters.

    Several of Bhutto's party workers were arrested. Some were swiftly released, came back, and were arrested again. The party says 5,000 of its supporters have been picked up; the government says that's an exaggeration.

    One man arrived with a goat to sacrifice for luck. No incident was too bizarre for the hordes of waiting media.

    Eventually, she was driven helter-skelter to the barricade to address the cameras.

    Benazir Bhutto is urging the soldiers, the police to leave, to let them through, to let her hold her rally, but they're saying, no, it's not going to happen. She urged the president to end the state of emergency.

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister:

    How can they do this day after day? They can't. How long can they keep these barbed wires? How long can they keep these blockades? Tomorrow these barbed wires will be removed, and tomorrow we will come forth again, and we will come forth again until our demands are met, until our aspirations are met, which is for a democratic Pakistan. We are trying to save Pakistan.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    The government denied she was under house arrest, saying she was stopped for her own safety.

  • TARIQ AZIM, Deputy Information Minister, Pakistan:

    We have credible information that they may attack her again, as they did on the 18th of October when she arrived in Karachi. So I think it's the duty of any government to ensure safety of all the citizens, and especially of somebody we know who has been targeted as her. So we put ourselves to not take out this rally. She refused to abide by that instructions, so we had to restrain her from moving out.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    In Rawalpindi, a few handfuls of protestors got through, but quickly scattered.

    Benazir Bhutto is positioning herself as the champion of the people, even though her period as prime minister was marred by ineptitude and corruption. But she's dominating the debate now, putting President Musharraf on the back foot, and drawing huge international attention to her cause.

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