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Pakistan Withdraws Arrest Order Against Former PM Bhutto


The government of Pakistan freed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from house arrest late Friday, after earlier blocking her from leading a rally against emergency rule.

A spokeswomen for Ms. Bhutto said she is due to meet with officials of her Pakistan People's Party and foreign diplomats Saturday.

Earlier, Ms. Bhutto tried twice to leave her residence in the capital, Islamabad, to attend a rally she organized against President Pervez Musharraf in nearby Rawalpindi. But she was unable to break through the barricades, barbed wires and riot police surrounding her home.

Speaking outside the house with supporters by her side, Ms. Bhutto repeated opposition demands that General Musharraf lift the state of emergency, resign as army chief and hold elections by mid-January.

Ms. Bhutto also said she still plans to lead a protest march early next week from Lahore to Islamabad.

In Rawalpindi, police clashed with several hundred protesters who tried to gather for the rally, defying a ban on public demonstrations.

Meanwhile, a suicide bombing killed at least four people at the home of a government minister in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Political affairs minister Amir Muqam was not hurt.

Muqam is the regional head of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party and an ally of the president.

General Musharraf imposed emergency rule last Saturday, saying it was necessary to curb growing extremist attacks and judicial activism.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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