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Imran surfaces, detained

The Pakistan Opposition leader is detained by radical students and subsequently handed over to police, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Nov 14, 2007 23:57 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

Former cricketer and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan was arrested from Punjab University in Lahore on Wednesday as the number of those detained by government authorities swelled into hundreds. Most of those arrested are politicians and lawyers protesting the rule of President Pervez Musharraf and his state of emergency in the country.

Imran Khan was arrested after he emerged from hiding for the first time since emergency rule was imposed. Khan appeared at the Punjab University in Lahore ahead of a planned protest and was immediately pushed inside a campus building by a crowd of students. A student organisation has reportedly locked Imran Khan in a room at the Punjab University demanding that Khan leave the university at the earliest.

The former cricket captain, who now leads his own opposition party, was placed under house arrest on November 3 after the state of emergency was declared, but slipped our and had been in hiding ever since.

Another important arrest on Wednesday was that of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Punjab president, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who along with several of his associates was arrested while leading a PPP motorcade from Okara, a town near Lahore.

Prior to his arrest, Qureshi said that General Musharraf with or without uniform was no longer acceptable now and talks would not be held with him under any circumstances after the launching of our movement.

Opposition to Musharraf is growing within the country. A day after leading opposition figure Benazir Bhutto asked General Musharraf to step down, other major politicians, including former PM Mian Nawaz Sharif rallied behind her.

Sharif said he was looking forward to co-operating with Bhutto — and would back an election boycott if Gen Musharraf refused to lift restrictions and "restore the judiciary".

"We should now be looking towards the greater cause, which is to save the country from a catastrophic situation," he said. So far, Pakistan's government has refused to bow to pressure to lift emergency rule, which was imposed on 3 November on grounds of rising militancy and "interference" by the judiciary, but has attracted growing international condemnation.

The US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, will travel to Pakistan later this week to urge Musharraf to lift emergency and hold free elections, a state department spokesman has said.