Long March Begins...in the midst of crackdown
By JANE PERLEZ, New York Times, March 13, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan —The civilian government banned a national protest march and arrested hundreds of political workers, evoking for many Pakistanis the sweeping security restrictions of the former military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
The unusually tough action on Wednesday and Thursday deepened the popular discontent with President Asif Ali Zardari, whose six months as leader of Pakistan has been marked by a worsening Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgency, a weak economy, and what is widely perceived as rule by an accidental leader.
The ban also heightened the showdown between the titans of Pakistan’s politics: Mr. Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and the head of the secular Pakistan Peoples Party who is backed by the United States, and Nawaz Sharif, a former Prime Minister who is more popular among Pakistanis but whom Washington sees as less committed to quelling the insurgency consuming Pakistan.
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