Former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto remained under house arrest in Islamabad for the second day on Wednesday as her Pakistan People's Party said it would push ahead with its "long march" against the emergency amidst a tense stand-off with President Pervez Musharraf.
Nearly 1,000 policemen are deployed around the home of PPP leader Latif Khosa, where the 54-year-old Bhutto has been detained, preventing her from stepping out to join the march from Lahore to Islamabad.
Police also stepped up efforts to block the march, now being led by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the head of the Punjab unit of the PPP. Officials moved to block PPP activists from across the province joining the motorcade as it makes its way through the interiors of Punjab.
Bhutto stepped up efforts to forge a united front with other political parties to take on Musharraf, whom she had called on yesterday to quit as president and army chief.
She has also ruled out serving with the military ruler in any future government. For the first time, Bhutto yesterday held direct parleys on phone with Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed. PPP secretary general Jahangir Badar, talking to reporters outside Khosa's house, said: "Talks with other parties and all democratic forces like the bar associations are on to carry on our campaign for civilian democratic rule."
Khosa's house has been surrounded by barbed wire and metal barricades while police vehicles and trucks have been used to block nearby roads. Officials said Bhutto's house arrest would continue under a seven-day detention order served yesterday and there was no plan to shift her to Karachi or Islamabad.
The officials said Bhutto had been detained "for her own safety" as there are reports that suicide bombers had entered Lahore to target her. The PPP has dismissed this contention, saying the military regime is "dead scared of the street power" of the party and "will leave no stone unturned to crush the resistance" that the PPP has put up.
Hundreds of PPP workers have been arrested across Punjab to prevent them joining the long march that is expected to culminate in Islamabad with a sit-in. PPP workers also clashed yesterday with police in Karachi and Peshawar during protests against Bhutto's detention.