Pakistani Canadians have urged the Canadian government to pressurise President Pervez Musharraf into accepting a United Nations-led international investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Staging a protest rally, which was attended by Canadian Opposition leader Jack Layton and other legislators, at the Ontario legislature assembly in Toronto, the Pakistan People's Party of Canada (PPP-Canada) presented its five-point demand charter to the government which, among other things, sought pressure on Musharraf to quit before elections were held.
Blaming Musharraf for the assassination, the protesters said Canada "should do more than just issue statements."
PPP-Canada convener Mansoor Mirza, who led the protesters and gave a memorandum to Jack Layton to be passed on to Prime Minister Harper, told IANS, "Through the opposition leader, we have requested Prime Minister Harper to press for an independent international probe into Benazir's death and Musharraf's ouster."
Mirza said free elections were not possible under Musharraf.
"The army is well-entrenched in Pakistan and they would not allow the PPP to emerge victorious. That's why they have killed Benazir. We also demand that the ousted judges be restored to their jobs and the media allowed full freedom," he said.
Addressing the rally, Layton promised to convey these demands to the government. He said democracy and stability in Pakistan were very important for Canada which, along with the US-led coalition, was fighting the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Without mentioning Musharraf, Layton said Pakistan should be freed from dictatorship. He promised them Canada's full support in their struggle for restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
Haling the decision of the PPP leadership to anoint Benazir's son Bilawal as her successor and contest the Jan 8 elections, the protesters said the decision would pull Pakistan back from the brink of civil war.
"By appointing Bilawal as PPP chairman, the party has doused the fires engulfing the country. There is a huge bitterness among people towards the Punjabis in Pakistan because of what has happened. We hope Pakistan has been saved once again," said a party office-bearer.
Mirza added: "Only a Bhutto can bind all Pakistanis. Though nobody can replace Benazir, we hope Bilawal will fill the vacuum with the passage of time. He is a kid and will need to grow up fast."
The protesters welcomed the decision of their party and Nawaz Sharif to contest the January 8 elections, saying their joint victory could put Musharraf in the dock.
"He needs a majority vote from the new National Assembly for approval of his May changes to the constitution. If the PPP and Sharif can defeat him on it, he can be forced out. We have to wait," said the PPP convener.