ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, AUG. 7 -- The interim Pakistani government appointed today by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan has instructed immigration officials to prevent former members of dismissed prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party from leaving the country, officials here said.
The names and exact number of Bhutto government members faced with travel restrictions was not disclosed, but dozens were said to be affected. There were reports from party members that Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, had been placed on the travel restriction list, but interim government officials declined to confirm those reports.
Officials with the interim government said the travel restrictions were designed to prevent politicians suspected of corrupt practices while in office from escaping prosecution or taking assets abroad.
Backed by Pakistani's military, Khan dismissed Bhutto's government Monday after 20 months in office, charging that her administration had ignored the constitution, failed to control ethnic violence and engaged in corruption and nepotism.
Some Pakistanis expressed puzzlement and resentment over the composition of the interim cabinet now being formed under opposition leader Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, who has a narrow political following.
Rather than being composed of civil servants, retired diplomats or other impartial figures, the interim administrations being formed in Islamabad and in the country's four provinces have been stocked with leading figures from the martial law period of the 1980s when Pakistan was led by military ruler Gen. Zia ul-Haq. Pakistan People's Party dissidents with reputations for political opportunism are also being included. However, one relatively neutral figure from both Zia's and Bhutto's administration, Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, has been retained.
Neither Bhutto nor Zardari have expressed any intention of leaving Pakistan, and the former prime minister has vowed to fight her dismissal. Bhutto left the capital late this afternoon for Karachi, where she was to join her husband at their home and begin consultations with senior party leaders.
Reaction to Bhutto's downfall was subdued across the country today, as both the Pakistan People's Party and the newly appointed government appeared reluctant to take any steps that would provoke drastic action by the other side. Army troops were on standby in Sind Province, but there were no reports of street demonstrations or additional violence in Karachi or Hyderabad, which have been troubled by ethnic strife, or in rural areas that form Bhutto's stronghold.
Facing the appointment soon of a judicial commission that will make inquiries into charges of corruption, Bhutto and her supporters have decided that their only hope for a return to office lies in quietly building support at home and abroad for impartial elections, which Khan has said will be held in October.