Police detain Sharif's wife

Ex-president's supporters rounded up to prevent protests on coup anniversary
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The Independent Online

Pakistan's military placed the wife of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under house arrest and detained scores of his party loyalists on Thursday to stifle protests called to mark the one-year anniversary of army rule. Kulsoom Sharif was detained late Wednesday. Police and soldiers were confining her at the home of a party official in neighboring Rawalpindi, said her spokeman, Rashid Latif. "They want to stop us from our right to a peaceful protest because they are afraid of the people," Latif said. From his jail cell in the 16th-century Attock Fort, Sharif, the former prime minister, referred to himself as a "hostage." "This day, one year ago the constitution of Pakistan was violated in the dark of night under the shadow of guns," Sharif wrote in a statement published in the English-language daily newspaper The News. "Democracy was uprooted and in its place tyranny and rank cruelty were planted," Sharif said. "The people's elected prime minister was made a hostage and consigned to an isolated cold

Pakistan's military placed the wife of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under house arrest and detained scores of his party loyalists on Thursday to stifle protests called to mark the one-year anniversary of army rule. Kulsoom Sharif was detained late Wednesday. Police and soldiers were confining her at the home of a party official in neighboring Rawalpindi, said her spokeman, Rashid Latif. "They want to stop us from our right to a peaceful protest because they are afraid of the people," Latif said. From his jail cell in the 16th-century Attock Fort, Sharif, the former prime minister, referred to himself as a "hostage." "This day, one year ago the constitution of Pakistan was violated in the dark of night under the shadow of guns," Sharif wrote in a statement published in the English-language daily newspaper The News. "Democracy was uprooted and in its place tyranny and rank cruelty were planted," Sharif said. "The people's elected prime minister was made a hostage and consigned to an isolated cold dungeon." Last Oct 12, Sharif's government was ousted in a quick, bloodless coup led by Army Chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf after being accused of abusing its powers so brazenly that it threatened the country's unity and weakened such key institutions as the judiciary. In eastern Punjab province, police and soldiers swept through the Multan and Bahawalpur areas through the night arresting about 65 members of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League. Police officials in Multan said that most of those arrested were members of the youth wing of Sharif's party and would be released either Friday or Saturday. They said the detentions were intended to prevent protests. Last March, the military government banned public protests and political meetings saying it would destabilize the country and hamper the military's attempts to reform the economy and electoral process and clean up the endemic corruption. But human rights groups in Pakistan and abroad have been sharply critical of the military's approach calling it heavy handed. In a report released this week, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the military of widespread human rights abuses. Much of the criticism was reserved for the military's practice of arresting politicians and officials without laying charges. Sharif and several of his closest colleagues have been in jail since the coup. Earlier this year, Sharif was found guilty of hijacking and terrorism and sentenced to two concurrent life prison terms. Sharif is appealing the sentence. The prosecution has also filed an appeal and is seeking the death penalty. Sharif has denied the charges that stemmed from an incident on the day of the coup, when he allegedly denied permission to land to an aircraft carrying Gen. Musharraf back to Pakistan. The aircraft was allowed to land after the army took control but by then it had barely seven minutes of fuel remaining. Sharif's former interior minister Shujaat Hussein, in an interview in The News Thursday, said Sharif triggered the coup when he fired Musharraf and tried to replace him with a more junior general. Hussein said Sharif had been misled by his closest associates into believing that Musharraf was planning to overthrow him. "But the general was not planning any such thing," said Hussein.

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