RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN, Nov. 14 — President Pervez Musharraf, in a move that he says reinforces his
commitment to restoring democracy in this embattled nation, on Tuesday put himself under house arrest.
"I am not above the law," Musharraf said, standing behind barbed wire that had been placed around his house in Rawalpindi. "I am just like Mrs. Bhutto, but without all the cosmetic surgery."
Musharraf had faced criticism on Monday after he addressed a gathering of supporters in Lahore. "Why don’t the rules of emergency apply to him?" opposition leader Benazir Bhutto said. "I have been under house arrest twice and on another occasion, the police threatened to confiscate my makeup kit. Why must we have double standards?"
Musharraf brushed off the criticism Monday evening, saying, "We may have double standards, but we are at least trying hard, under my leadership, to achieve triple standards."
But on Tuesday morning, after receiving a phone call from President George W. Bush, Musharraf decided to punish himself. He denied that Bush had twisted his arm. "There was no arm-twisting," he said, raising his voice in anger at a reporter’s question. "No leg-twisting either. Please do not ask me about any other appendage."
President Bush praised Musharraf’s action. "It shows that President Musharraf has a conscience," Bush said. "That’s why he’s a friend of America. He’s a good, honorable man, who just happens to be a dictator."
Musharraf appeared to violate the house arrest Tuesday afternoon when he took off in a helicopter from the roof. But Ibrahim Khan, a police constable standing guard in front of the house, said the president had technically not done anything wrong.
"It is house arrest," Khan said, pointing at the barbed wire. "The house is still under arrest."