Anti-U.S. Protests Flare in Pakistan
More than 10,000 people demonstrated against the U.S.-British air strikes throughout many towns and cities along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Protesters chanting “Long Live the Taliban” and “Bush is a Terrorist” took to the streets after learning of last night’s air raids against Taliban camps and military stations in Afghanistan.
As the protests continued, Musharraf appeared on national television to declare that “the vast majority” of Pakistanis support his decision to back the U.S.-British campaign.
“I know that the people of Pakistan are with my government on all the decisions we have taken in national interest,” Musharraf said.
Since announcing Pakistan’s cooperation in the U.S.-British campaign, Musharraf has worked to contain internal factionalism. Musharraf indefinitely extended his tenure as army chief and relegated two senior pro-Taliban generals to reportedly more ceremonial positions.
Musharraf today replaced his intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, who had urged the Taliban rulers to hand over accused terrorist Osama bin Laden to the U.S. government.
During his address today, Musharraf said the shuffling was part of a “normal military activity which has gone on.
“It has no relationship with events which are taking place, absolutely,” he said.
But Munawar Hassan, the deputy chief of the Jamiat-e-Islam party, Pakistan’s pro-Taliban fundamentalist party, warned of a “serious backlash” in the military because of Musharraf’s controversial alliance with the U.S.
“The Pakistan army does not agree with Musharraf,” Hansson said.
Maulana Fazal-ur Rehamn, the founder and leader of the pro-Taliban party, was put under house arrest Sunday to prevent him from leading further protests.
Demonstrations throughout Pakistan
Demonstrations in the city of Quetta became increasingly unruly and violent when over 4,000 protesters set fire to five movie theaters, a bank and the Pakistani Central Investigations Agency.
A roving mob of over 1,000 protesters also targeted a nearby United Nations Children’s Fund building and an office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). No international workers were reported injured.
The protesters, mostly members of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, carried signs praising the Taliban and bin Laden, and burned images of Musharraf and President Bush.
Regional leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam demanded a jihad, or holy war, against the West and condemned Musharraf for supporting the U.S.
At least one protester was killed in gunfire exchanged between protesters and riot police; more than 26 were wounded. Anti-riot police fired tear gas into the crowds and shot live ammunition into the air to quell the mobs. It is unclear whether protesters or police initiated the gunfire.
Violence also flared in the northwestern city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border, where students and Afghan refugees demonstrated against the previous night’s air strikes. Police used tear gas and batons to break up the 2,000 anti-U.S. demonstrators.
Police also used gunfire in the town of Landikotal after demonstrators there began a pro-Taliban rally. Four people were reported injured.
In Chaman, a small border town, over 6,000 Pakistanis and Afghans protested by burning straw effigies of Musharraf.
In Kyber Pass by the Afghan border, local police opened fire on the 6,000 Pashtun tribesmen who had been burning images of President Bush.