Police in Lahore lifted the house arrest against opposition leader Benazir Bhutto Friday, allowing the former prime minister to go free for the first time since Tuesday.
The move came hours before Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s hand-picked caretaker government was to be sworn in.
Bhutto has called on Musharraf to step down and said negotiations between her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and him have hit a dead end.
Her remarks came Tuesday after Pakistani police surrounded the house where she is staying to prevent her from leading a Lahore-to-Islamabad march. Her supporters were also arrested.
Bhutto has entered into talks with her successor and rival, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on forming an alliance against Musharraf. Sharif himself is exiled from Pakistan after Musharraf ousted him in a bloodless coup in 1999.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on Friday for weekend meetings with Musharraf and other Pakistani officials.
Negroponte will convey to Musharraf how seriously the United States views his imposition of emergency rule and will suggest he rescind it, senior U.S. State Department officials told CNN.
Late Thursday, Pakistan’s government-run media announced that Musharraf had appointed his allies to the caretaker government that will oversee upcoming parliamentary elections — despite a pledge to include “people of a neutral band.”
Leading the interim Cabinet will be newly installed Prime Minister Mohammad Mian Soomro, who previously served as chairman of the Senate — a key post because the Senate chairman is acting president when Musharraf is outside the country.
Asked Wednesday if he would include members of the opposition in the caretaker government, Musharraf was vague in an interview with The Associated Press, saying “we are looking into names (from opposition parties).”