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|Violence Erupts in Karachi|
|10/08/01 at 12:17:13|
|Violent Protests Follow U.S. Strikes in Pakistan |
By TED ANTHONY
.c The Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Oct. 8) - Enraged by strikes on Afghanistan, supporters of its Taliban regime burned buildings, battled police and demanded holy war against America on Monday even as Pakistan's president insisted his support of the U.S.-led coalition reflected the will of the people.
No deaths were immediately reported.
Authorities in the southwestern city of Quetta uncorked tear gas and fired live ammunition into the air to repel 4,000 agitated demonstrators who torched five movie theaters, damaged a bank and burned the police station. Members of the paramilitary border police were dispatched when local security forces began to lose control, and smoke was billowing from the city's main market at midafternoon.
``To all Muslims around the world: Prepare yourselves for jihad,'' said Maulana Noor Mohammed, the provincial head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a religious party. Jihad is the Arabic term for holy war.
In Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, a mob of 400 students set three buses aflame and pelted authorities with stones. At least eight were injured when police charged them with batons and tear gas. In northwestern Peshawar, both tear gas and steel-tipped sticks were used to scatter 2,000 Taliban supporters as they emerged from a mosque and began to protest.
Police opened fire on several hundred demonstrators in the border town of Landikotal when they tried to stage a pro-Taliban rally. Four people were reported injured, but the extent of - and reason for - their injuries were unclear.
The overwhelming majority of Pakistan's 145 million people are Muslim, and Islamic religious parties have strongly condemned U.S. moves against Afghanistan for harboring Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Nevertheless, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has given full support to the U.S. campaign to apprehend bin Laden. On the morning after the attacks, Musharraf appeared in a nationally televised press conference to declare that ``the vast majority'' of Pakistanis support his stand.
``I know that the people of Pakistan are with my government on all the decisions we have taken in national interest,'' said Musharraf.
The U.S. and British attacks drew quick, impassioned condemnation by some of Pakistan's most influential religious leaders. Several called the strikes a direct attack on Islam, and many warned of consequences in Pakistan.
``It is the duty of every Muslim to support their brothers in this critical hour,'' said Riaz Durana, central leader of the Taliban-sympathetic Afghan Defense Council in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore. ``We will support the Taliban physically and morally against the aggression of America.''
The council, which comprises more than 30 religious and militant groups, issued a call for ``jihad,'' or holy war.
Some ordinary citizens were also upset and angry. ``Any Muslim who claims that he is a Muslim will not support this attack,'' retired soldier Mohammed Iqbal said in Lahore.
Pakistan shares a border of more than 1,050 miles with Afghanistan. An estimated 2 million Afghan refugees are already in Pakistan, and Musharraf said he expects 1 million more after Sunday's attacks.
Languages, ethnicities and even family ties overlap, and many Pakistanis, even those with no sympathy for the ruling Taliban militia, are reluctant to see Afghanistan attacked.
Sazid Mir, president of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith Pakistan, an organization of Muslim clerics, said Americans face a ``highly critical situation'' in the Islamic world. He beseeched the United States to ``immediately stop the attacks on Afghanistan and stop targeting innocent Afghans.'' There was no indication the strikes had targeted civilians.
In Quetta, crowds chanting anti-American and anti-Musharraf epithets blocked roads and burned tires, sending plumes of smoke into the air. They also set ablaze two city fire vehicles and three passenger buses. Roving bands of demonstrators moved through town, shutting down stores. Two dozen protesters attacked a police station Monday morning but were repulsed.
Police confined foreign journalists to their hotel, reportedly for their own safety.
The rioters were mostly from the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam or Party of Islamic Clerics
Not all demonstrations Monday were violent.
In the frontier town of Chaman, nearly 6,000 people - both Pakistanis and Afghans from across the border - demonstrated peacefully by sitting cross-legged on a major road, shutting it down and burning a straw effigy of Musharraf. Volunteers from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a religious political party, kept order.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam's leader, under house arrest at his home in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan for much of Sunday to prevent him from leading demonstrations, was released briefly but detained again Monday morning for the same reason. Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman was under heavy armed guard, party spokesman Riaz Durrani told The Associated Press.
Musharraf also said Monday that his move to bolster support within the military had nothing to do with the U.S. strikes. He sidelined two pro-Taliban generals in a shakeup of senior ranks announced just before the attacks. The shuffle also came a day after Musharraf extended his own term as the army chief for an indefinite period.
Musharraf said he had been contemplating the changes for months.
``This is a normal military activity which has gone on,'' he said. ``It has no relationship with events which are taking place, absolutely.''
Munawar Hassan, deputy chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's most powerful religious political party, warned of ``serious backlash'' within Pakistan's military because of the president's pro-American stance.
``The Pakistan army does not agree with Musharraf,'' Hassan said.
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