Agence France Presse

Islamabad, January 1

Pakistani opposition parties today staged rallies against President Pervez Musharraf in a “black day” of protest after he reneged on his pledge to quit as army chief. Rallies were held in major cities and towns across the country, where speakers denounced Musharraf for “violating” his pledge to hang up his army uniform by the end of 2004. The turnout was however marred by severe winter rains continuing in the capital Islamabad and its twin city of Rawalpindi for the past three days. Rain hit a mass rally planned in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province where some 300 slogan chanting people gathered for a demonstration. Heavy rain and snow lso kept people indoors in southwestern Baluchistan province.

Around 400 people, some wearing black arm bands and carrying black banners, attended a rally in the central city of Multan with leaders of the Islamic alliance of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) criticising Musharraf for not abiding by his pledge. “Musharraf has broken his promise, we will not accept his decision to retain the post of army chief,” local MMA leader Hidayatullah Pasruri told the gathering. The protesters dispersed peacefully after blocking the traffic for about one hour. Similar rallies were held in the nearby cities of Bahawalpur and Dera.

Zardari vows to return to Pak:

DUBAI: The husband of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto has vowed that nothing will stop him returning to his homeland following his release after eight years in jail, a newspaper reported on Saturday. “That is not even a remote possibility, nobody can stop me from returning. I don’t get stopped so easily,” Asif Ali Zardari told the English language Gulf News after arriving in Dubai, where his wife is in self-imposed exile to avoid graft charges in Pakistan. “In order of priority, first I am here to meet my wife whom I have not seen for the last five-and-a-half years, our family will be reunited, then I will take instruction on how we should handle the future,” he added. — AFP