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Bhutto Able to Leave Home, Meets Party Officials


Pakistani police have allowed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to move around the capital, Islamabad, for meetings with protesters and political party officials.

Ms. Bhutto addressed a protest by hundreds of journalists Saturday, saying that she and her party stand for a free and independent media. Her statement was made in the parking lot of a private television station.

Earlier Saturday, Ms. Bhutto met with senior members of her Pakistan People's Party. However, Pakistani police prevented her from visiting the home of the nation's ousted chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. Police prevented the former prime minister from leaving her home on Friday.

Most independent broadcasters remain off the air today in Pakistan and some newspapers have been censored. But in recent days, state television has carried reports of Ms. Bhutto's speeches, indicating the government is willing to allow some coverage of her organizing efforts.

Ms. Bhutto has said she still plans to lead a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad next week to demand that President Pervez Musharraf give up his army chief post, hold elections as scheduled in January, and lift the emergency rule imposed last Saturday.

Pakistan's attorney general Malik Mohammad Qayyum told reporters Saturday that the emergency is likely to be lifted in a month.

U.S. President George Bush said during a news conference in Texas that promises by Mr. Musharraf to lift the state of emergency are "positive steps." He added that the United States needs the cooperation of Pakistan to combat the militant group al-Qaida.

President Musharraf has said parliamentary elections will be held before February 15, a month later than originally scheduled.

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