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Air Strikes Trigger Protests in Pakistan - 2001-10-08


The United States-led strikes in Afghanistan have provoked violent protests in neighboring Pakistan. A number of people are said to have been injured as a result of clashes between Pakistani police and protesters.

About 4,000 demonstrators burned several buildings in the southwestern border city of Quetta to protest the U.S. military strikes. Pakistani police used tear gas and fired live ammunition into the air to disperse them.

Supporters of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement have also taken to the streets in other major cities, including the capital, Islamabad. The demonstrators in Islamabad chanted anti-American slogans and condemned Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf for facilitating the U.S. military strikes.

The rally took place under tight security, not far from President Musharraf's official residence. Local religious leaders like Ghani Rashid urged the crowd to prepare for war against the United States and its citizens. "Now we are going to start a holy war against the Americans," he said. "Every American would be asked to leave from [Pakistan]. And those allies of America, they would also be asked to leave the country. Otherwise we will consider those people at war with us, we would think they are our enemy."

Protester Mohammed Usman says that if the American strikes lead to major civilian casualties in Afghanistan, it will provoke more violent protests in Pakistan and other Muslim nations. "People over here, they are very vocal. They are telling you that they will kill others, etc., etc.," he said. "But the reality of the matter is that there is anti-American sentiment, and that is what this is all about. If something goes wrong then, you know, God help us all."

President Musharraf says his government has taken strong measures to keep the situation under control. He says those who are agitating against the U.S. action are in the minority. "The vast majority is with our decision," said the general. "There are some extremists who are trying to have this agitation. I am very sure this will be controllable and we will meet the situation as it comes."

In a nationally televised press conference, General Musharraf supported U.S. strikes, saying the Taleban rulers were given plenty of time to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden to avoid the attacks.

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