Islamabad, Nov 8: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's main opposition party said today thousands of its activists were arrested overnight as a crackdown on opponents of President Pervez Musharraf continued.
Police, who have detained hundreds of lawyers and other opposition figures since Musharraf imposed emergency rule and suspended the constitution on Saturday citing a hostile judiciary and rising militancy, denied arresting Bhutto supporters.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party plans to hold a public meeting in Rawalpindi, adjoining the capital Islamabad, on Friday to protest against the imposition of emergency rule by General Musharraf, and Bhutto has threatened a mass march unless he quits as army chief and holds elections on schedule.
''They have raided homes of our activists across Punjab throughout the night. The number of people arrested is now in the thousands,'' a party spokeswoman in the central Punjab province, Farzana Raja, said.
Police have already warned Bhutto's party they will not be allowed to stage rallies.
''All kind of rallies have been banned because we have reports from intelligence agencies that seven to eight suicide bombers have sneaked into Punjab,'' Saud Aziz, police chief of Rawalpindi, told to the sources.
''We don't want repeat of the Karachi incident,'' he said referring to a suicide attack in the southern financial capital during a rally to mark Bhutto's return from eight years of exile last month. At least 139 people were killed in the bombing.
Bhutto, leader of the largest opposition party and the politician most capable of mobilising street power, yesterday threatened a long march from the eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad on November 13 if Musharraf fails to step down as army chief by Nov. 15, restore the constitution and stick to national elections due by mid-January.