Angry protests erupt across Pakistan: Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman Under Arrest
Angry protests erupt across Pakistan
ISLAMABAD - Several cities in Pakistan have been hit hard by protests
after the U.S.-led air strikes over Afghanistan.
In Quetta, about 1,500 demonstrated against U.S. military strikes in
nearby Afghanistan by burning tires and setting fire to a movie theatre
before police could disperse them using tear gas.
Foreign reporters in Quetta have been locked inside their hotel by police,
who refuse to let them out to cover the story.
Hundreds of pro-Taliban demonstrators have also demonstrated outside the
gates of the hotel.
A judge earlier ruled that police should not keep them in the hotel, but
said they would be on their own if they ventured out. But police have
refused to let the journalists leave.
Instead, they have been watching the demonstrations from the roof of the
Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, was also hit by large demonstrations.
Protesters set three buses on fire there.
In Peshawar, police threw tear gas at a crowd of about 2,000 people as
they began to demonstrate after coming out of a mosque.
Police fired on several hundred people in the border town of Landikotal,
On Monday, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said the vast
majority of the country's population is behind the government's support
for the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.
But Musharraf also said the military campaign needs to be short and
targeted on bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network.
He said the opposition, while expected to organize demonstrations, was
controllable, and the government would deal with the situation as it
There had been speculation Musharraf would declare marshal law, but has so
far not done so.
Police were patrolling Karachi, and had cordoned off roads leading to the
U.S. consulate there.
The protests had been expected as some of the country's most influential
Muslim clerics quickly denounced the bombing raids over targets in
Afghanistan by U.S. and British forces. The clerics called the raids an
attack on Islam and grounds for holy war.
The Afghan Defence Council, based in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore
called for holy war. Scattered demonstrations were reported in major
cities on Sunday night, but without violence.
Cleric under house arrest
On Sunday, police in Peshawar placed under house arrest a cleric who has
been an outspoken supporter of the Taliban and critic of the government's
decision to side with the United States.
Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman is the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, or
Party of Islamic Clerics.
He led thousands of people in a four-hour protest in support of the
Taliban on Saturday, and was planning another for Sunday.
With that sort of opposition already in place, people in Pakistan are
waiting for reports of damage and casualties from Afghanistan.
Most expect that if word comes across the border that civilians were
killed in the bombing raids, many Pakistanis will react with extreme
There have been conflicting reports about civilians having been killed in
the barrage. The Pentagon said it was too early to know about any deaths
in the attacks.
Pro-Taliban generals removed
In another move likely aimed at minimizing internal problems in the wake
of the attacks, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf removed two
pro-Taliban generals from the upper ranks of the military.
Musharraf didn't explain the shuffle on Sunday, which came before the U.S.
and British attacks on neighbouring Afghanistan. But it appeared to be
intended to help strengthen the president's position in the army.
Several Islamic hardliners hold high ranks in the military, and are
opposed to co-operation with the United States.
Most indications are that the majority of Pakistanis support Musharraf's
decision, but that support could shift dramatically if the battle with
Afghanistan begins to pile up civilian casualties.
No rush at the border
The border, which had already been closed to refugees, was completely
sealed on Sunday.
No reports were made after the attacks of large numbers of people trying
to cross the border into Afghanistan.
Pakistani border guards did, however, turn back about 100 Afghans trying
to return to Afghanistan.
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