LAHORE, Pakistan: The opposition politician Imran Khan emerged from hiding Wednesday to the cheers of hundreds of students at a demonstration against General Pervez Musharraf at a university here, but he was quickly seized by hard-line students and turned over to the police, witnesses said.
In another development, Benazir Bhutto has started to rally opposition parties into a coordinated movement against Musharraf, her party spokeswoman, Sherry Rehman, said in an interview Wednesday.
Bhutto, a former prime minister who has been placed under house arrest in Lahore, has contacted the main opposition parties and has received a favorable response, Rehman said.
“She wants a one-point agenda – the restoration of democracy,” Rehman said.
Bhutto’s move to bring opposition parties into a united front against Musharraf is likely to increase the pressure on the military leader and strengthen calls for an end to emergency rule, under which the Constitution has been suspended and thousands of people have been placed under detention or house arrest.
“This is a logical reaction to the events of the last week and the brutal behavior of the state,” Rehman said. “They have locked up not only her, but thousands of party workers. The whole central leadership is under house arrest.”
[A police senior official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Bhutto would remain under house arrest in Lahore for at least another day.
[“The position for her will remain like this until at least tomorrow. Then the government will review what to do with her,” the official said on condition of anonymity because the matter was politically sensitive and no decision had been taken to release her.]
Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan last month to contest elections under an agreement with Musharraf, has hardened her stance since he imposed emergency rule this month. On Tuesday she called for him to resign from both his posts of chief of the army and president and restore the country to democratic rule. She also urged the international community to stop backing him.
Among the parties she has approached are those of Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister who is in exile in Saudi Arabia, and Khan’s Movement for Justice party.
Bhutto has also been in touch with the religious parties opposed to Musharraf, Rehman said.
Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician and the vociferous opponent of Musharraf who was seized Wednesday by hard-line students, was the only major opposition political figure who had not been placed under detention since the president imposed emergency rule on Nov. 3.
Khan’s appearance at Punjab University, one of the country’s oldest universities, was replete with high drama. Hundreds of students waited for him in front of Faisal Auditorium, chanting slogans like “Go Musharraf, Go” and “No to Emergency!”
Muhammad Asim, 25, a student of administrative sciences, explained that he was protesting against the suspension of fundamental human rights in Pakistan. He was holding a placard that read “Our hearts are crying with indignation.”
Students affiliated with the radical Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami were also present at the rally, raising slogans against President George W. Bush and the United States.
Khan, a style icon and symbol of defiance for Pakistani youth, was expected to speak to the students to rally them against Musharraf, said Saloni Bokhari, the president of the women’s wing of Khan’s political party.
Around noon, to the delight of his student supporters, Khan suddenly appeared, and several students hoisted him triumphantly into the air.
Khan, visibly pleased by the reception, was making a victory sign when he was seized by students belonging to Islami Jamiat-e-Talba, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami.
The students hustled him into a nearby building and detained him there for about an hour.
“We have taken him inside to prevent him from arrest and to make sure he joins the protest in an organized manner,” said one of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talba students.
But Khan was then put into a white van and driven off campus, where he was arrested. As the van moved through the melee, students smashed its windows.
A senior police official, Aftab Cheema, told The Associated Press that Khan was being held at an undisclosed location and would be charged with crimes yet to be determined.
Salman Masood reported from Lahore and Carlotta Gall from Islamabad.
Chaudhry honoredIftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the former chief justice of Pakistan who was fired by Musharraf, was awarded Harvard Law School’s Medal of Freedom for his resistance to emergency rule, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“As lawyers who value freedom and the rule of law, we at Harvard Law School want Chief Justice Chaudhry and all the courageous lawyers in Pakistan to know that we stand with them in solidarity,” Dean Elena Kagan said in a statement on the school’s Web site.
The school hopes Chaudhry will be able to receive the award once the emergency ends, Kagan said.
Musharraf fired Chaudhry on Nov. 4, accusing him of causing “turmoil” by “paralyzing the government and humiliating” Pakistani law enforcement officials.
The president has resisted pressure from President George W. Bush to restore the Constitution before the country holds promised general elections by Jan. 9.
The judge rejected the accusations by Musharraf and said he was fired to allow the government to rig the national elections.
He was removed to pre-empt a decision by Supreme Court judges, who were hearing a case challenging the president’s eligibility for another five-year term, Chaudhry said.
The dismissal marked the second time this year that the president had removed Chaudhry. In July he was reinstated after a panel of Supreme Court justices ruled that his suspension in March had been illegal.
In announcing the Harvard award, Kagan said, “We are proud to be their colleagues in the cause of justice, and we will do all we can to press for the prompt restoration of constitutionalism and legality in Pakistan.”
The Medal of Freedom was established by Harvard Law School to honor individuals who have worked to uphold the legal system’s fundamental commitment to freedom, justice and equality, the statement said.
Source: International Herald Tribune