Bhutto in standoff as blast hits minister's home
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Benazir Bhutto was involved in a standoff with security forces Friday as Pakistan suffered its first deadly attack since the declaration of emergency by President Pervez Musharraf.
A blast, possibly a suicide bomb, at the house of a federal minister in northwestern Pakistan killed four people Friday, police told CNN.
The attack happened at the home of Amir Muqam, the political affairs minister, who survived unharmed, police sources quoted by The Associated Press said
"This is what we were expecting -- that militants or the people in the tribal areas, wherever they are, would be targeting something related to the government," CNN's Mohsin Naqvi said, reporting from the field.
"We can't say how this is linked to the protests or whether it's a message to the government because militants have been targeting the government for the last two years."
Meanwhile opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto faced off against security forces, who placed barbed wire and barricades around her Islamabad home, preventing her attending a rally banned by the government, she told CNN.
When about 50 of her Pakistan People's Party supporters attempted to cut through the cordons of wire, riot police began beating both them and journalists.
An armored car carrying Bhutto approached the breach, where she -- speaking with a megaphone -- told several hundred police and security forces: "We are not the enemy; give us way."
Bhutto told the security forces: "Don't stop us, we are not the enemy. Even you in uniform are my brothers." However, the security forces refused to back down or let her through, and Bhutto returned to her home.
But she did manage to address her supporters, saying she did not want the situation in Iraq to be repeated in Pakistan and adding: "This barbed wire is against the hopes and peoples of Pakistan."Bhutto was trying to leave her compound to attend a rally in nearby Rawalpindi -- a city outside Islamabad where Pakistan's military is based -- against the state of emergency.
The former prime minister has been hoping fellow opposition parties will put their differences aside and participate as a challenge to Musharraf's government.
But in Rawalpindi Pakistani security forces fired tear gas and wielded batons to disperse opposition supporters for defying a ban on public gatherings, police sources told CNN.
"There are blockades and there are barbed wires," Bhutto said, speaking earlier by phone from her home in Islamabad.
"Police cannot expect us not to overcome the physical barrier. They're watching us as (supporters of her Pakistan People's Party) break the barbed wire with their bare hands."
Bhutto dismissed reports that she had been placed under house arrest and prevented from leaving her house by force.
She said she could not leave due to the cement blocks and fences on either side of her home, which are backed by 3,000 police officers.
Earlier, CNN's Elise Labott in Islamabad reported seeing several being dragging away and pushed into waiting vans. Some chanted slogans "down with Musharraf...bullets and batons will not last...Benazir for prime minister."
PPP spokeswoman Sherry Rehman said in a statement that the area was in a "virtual lockdown" and about 5,000 of Bhutto's supporters have been rounded up in efforts to foil the attempted mass protest against emergency rule.
Only members of the provincial assembly have been permitted to see the former prime minister, Rehman said.
"Thousands of PPP workers have gone underground. Roads are blocked," the statement said, adding more than 25 PPP parliament members have been detained in various police stations in Rawalpindi as they arrived from other provinces.
In addition Friday, the government also took CNN and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) off air for a second time as part of a media blackout, CNN's Mohsin Naqvi in Islamabad reported.
The re-imposition of a blackout on CNN and BBC comes just 24 hours after the ban on the two broadcasters was lifted.
Rest of article is here.
This is getting ugly pretty fast. What happens here in Pakistan SHOULD be of importance to every American, because who wins out will have impact on the Middle East, and here.