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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 10:48 GMT
Bhutto talks on Pakistan strategy
Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto wants elections to be held on schedule
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has begun talks with other opposition leaders to plan how to overturn the country's emergency rule.

However, some important parties are not in attendance. Ms Bhutto's party has refrained from street protests, but is planning a rally for Friday.

A top official from President Pervez Musharraf's party said emergency rule might only last two or three weeks.

But a BBC correspondent says the party has been giving conflicting signals.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, told the Dawn newspaper: "I'm sure it will end in two to three weeks as President Pervez Musharraf is aware of the consequences of long emergency rule."

But there appears to be a split between those members of the party advocating that parliamentary elections should be held on schedule - by mid-January - and those who want them postponed, says the BBC's Barbara Plett in the capital, Islamabad.

Meanwhile some 2,000 lawyers and students have begun a protest in Islamabad.

Threat to rally

Ms Bhutto heads the country's leading political group, the Pakistan People's Party. She has been joined in the Islamabad talks by a number of relatively small parties.

But the important MMA (United Council of Action) - an alliance of Islamic parties - is absent, as is the PML-N party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Movement for Justice Party of former cricket star Imran Khan is not at the talks either.

Mr Khan is in hiding, but appeared in a video on Wednesday calling for "massive street protests".

"I think that if we do not resist this, if we do not raise our voices against this, if we do not struggle against this, he [Gen Musharraf] is taking the country towards destruction," he said.

The opposition parties have so far not mobilised masses of supporters to join street protests, which have been led by lawyers and civil rights activists.

The Pakistani government should return to democratic rule and procedures as soon as possible
Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary General

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested as police have stamped out demonstrations.

But Ms Bhutto has called on her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to boycott parliament on Wednesday and hold a protest outside.

The PPP has also vowed to hold a rally on Friday in Rawalpindi, just outside the Pakistani capital, despite a ban on such demonstrations.

The aim is to increase pressure on President Musharraf to meet her two main demands - to give up his role as head of the army, and to hold elections - says the BBC's Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad.

"We denounce the government ban, and want to make it clear that our supporters and leaders will reach Rawalpindi for the rally," Babar Awan, a senior PPP member, told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.

However, the mayor of Rawalpindi, Javed Akhlas, vowed: "We will ensure that they don't violate the ban on rallies, and if they do it, the government will take action according to the law."

He told AP there was a "strong threat" of another suicide bomb attack against Ms Bhutto, who survived an assassination attempt on 18 October that killed more than 140 people.

Diplomatic row

Meanwhile the diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to end its state of emergency continues.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has insisted the country should return to civilian democratic rule.

A Pakistani protester is arrested
Protests have been continuing, with many participants being arrested
He called for the release of political leaders and lawyers detained during the crisis in Pakistan and for restrictions on the media to be removed.

Pakistan's ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, dismissed the demands.

"We think it's an internal matter and the United Nations has no business to pronounce itself on that," he told the BBC.

The UN Security Council, meanwhile, has been silent on Pakistan, in contrast to the stance it has taken recently over Burma, says the BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN.

The Security Council's mission is to deal with threats to international peace and security.

But Pakistan is seen as a country where the US has influence and is actively applying pressure, our correspondent says.

The Pakistani government's crackdown on pro-democracy activists continued on Tuesday with dozens of arrests reported.

The country's sacked chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, called for his countrymen to "rise up" and restore the constitution.

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