KARACHI, Pakistan — The government released Pakistan People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto from jail here Monday, after holding her 26 days for leading an anti-government rally in defiance of a ban on demonstrations, but it warned that it will not tolerate further unrest.
Bhutto, 33, immediately vowed to hold more rallies in her attempt to force elections to remove President Zia ul-Haq and Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo from office. But Bhutto, daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, admitted that anti-government efforts were set back by her arrest and subsequent violent clashes between police and demonstrators that claimed at least 29 lives.
She said she will consult with other opposition leaders before making any new moves. "Unfortunately our opponents believe in using violence; they believe in opening fire on peaceful citizens, and we have to review the entire situation and adopt our strategy accordingly," she told crowds of chanting supporters gathered on the lawn of her family home in a wealthy area of Karachi.
Bhutto said that she and other opposition leaders in Pakistan had not expected the government to react so severely to their plans for rallies on Aug. 14, the day she was jailed. Hundreds of People's Party and other opposition leaders were arrested on the eve of the rallies. Bhutto was arrested after she led a small procession of supporters here in Karachi.
The Sind provincial government released Bhutto and several hundred of her supporters the day before she was to appear in court to challenge the constitutionality of her arrest and her incarceration at a juvenile boys' jail in Landhi, 20 miles from here.
"This magnanimous gesture of the government should not be misunderstood, for the government is prepared to deal firmly with any future interference with the law," an official spokesman said.
She said after her release that she was not "physically mistreated" but that she was kept in a cell littered with insects and rats. "I had no worries of these mosquitoes, flies and rats because several thousands of my colleagues have been in similar conditions all over Pakistan," she added.
Obviously elated to be free, Bhutto laughed with friends and ate lotus fruit as she sat under an impressionistic painting of her father, who was removed in a 1977 coup d'etat led by Zia.
Two years after the coup, the elder Bhutto was executed by hanging after a Pakistan court found him guilty of murder on charges brought by the Zia martial-law government.
Since her father's death, Bhutto, who was educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, has been the main challenger to Zia.
Zia, meanwhile, has emerged as a skillful politician who claims to be gradually steering Pakistan's 90 million people toward democracy. A year and a half ago, he supervised national parliamentary elections in which political parties were not permitted to participate. He has repeatedly rejected demands for new elections, saying that democracy was restored when he lifted martial law in December and appointed Junejo to head a civilian government. Zia holds the title of army chief of staff in addition to the presidency.
Silent on Plans
Bhutto would not discuss specific plans for future demonstrations or actions against the Zia government. She admitted that opposition leaders had been "preempted" by the August arrests and claimed 40 supporters were killed by government forces while she was in jail.