Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto led tens of thousands of people on a triumphant 38-mile procession through the countryside Saturday, as President Zia ul-Haq warned that such rallies would not be allowed to get out of hand.
Her 11-hour procession from Lahore to Gujranwala included buses, trucks, cars, tractors and horse carts jammed with people. Bhutto stopped repeatedly to address people who poured out of villages and towns along the way.
She has attracted hundreds of thousands of people at rallies since her return to Pakistan on Thursday from exile in London.
Bhutto repeated on Saturday her demands that Gen. Zia be removed from power immediately and that free elections be held.
Zia, speaking to reporters in Quetta, where he was opening a sports event, said the opposition rallies are part of the democratic process but that he is determined to maintain law and order.
During the procession, the 32-year-old Bhutto said, “I have come to bring you freedom and democracy.” The crowds chanted “Benazir, Benazir!” and “Zia is a dog!”
The crowd in Gujranwala waited more than 12 hours for Bhutto. They held up pictures of Bhutto and her late father, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was overthrown by Zia in 1977 and later executed.
Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo, appointed by Zia to head the civilian government after the 8 1/2-year-old martial law was lifted Dec. 30, said the opposition rallies are a vindication of his and Zia’s assertion that democracy has been restored in Pakistan. But Junejo said there would be no early elections.
Bhutto and other opposition leaders contend that nothing changed with the lifting of martial law and that the military still rules the country.