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Protests against air strike

November 01, 2006

KHAAR/ISLAMABAD, Oct 31: Thousands of protesters on Tuesday took part in anti-government demonstrations across the country to condemn the air strike that killed over 80 people in a seminary near the headquarters of the Bajaur tribal agency on Monday morning.

Maulana Faqir Mohammad, a pro-Taliban cleric believed to be one of the targets of the Bajaur air strike, told a crowd of turbaned tribesmen, many carrying Kalashnikovs and wearing bandoliers, and a few shouldering rocket launchers, in Khaar that contingents of Muslim fighters would now pour into Afghanistan and oust American and British forces.

“Our jihad will continue,” he thundered as the crowd, seething with rage, broke into chants of “Down with America” and “Down with Musharraf”.

A protest rally was staged in Rawalpindi, home to the Pakistan army’s general headquarters, where MNA Mohammad Hanif Abbasi and other leaders of religious parties poured scorn on the air strike that, they said, had left unarmed students of a seminary dead.

They were convinced that US drones had been employed in the air raid.

The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, whose Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal rules the NWFP, told an indignant crowd of protesters in Tank, a small town that neighbours South Waziristan, that the Pakistani army was doing the nation a great disservice by owning up to air strikes widely believed to have been carried out by American planes.

He said the opposition would chalk out an effective programme for protest strikes in the next few days.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad saw red when he, as well as the procession he was heading, was stopped from entering the Bajaur tribal agency at the Qaddafi check-point.

Accompanied by some ministers in the NWFP government, Qazi Hussain staged a sit-in at the check-point and demanded that Pakistan should sever diplomatic links with the United States.

The secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Iqbal Haider, told newsmen in Lahore that the military’s frequent use of brute force to stifle the voice of dissent would only create discord and disharmony in the country.

The vice-chairperson of the Punjab Bar Council, Chaudhry Mohammad Azhar, told a news conference in Lahore that the chief justice of the Supreme Court should set up a judicial commission to find out exactly why the air strike was carried out and who was behind it.

The Lahore coordination committee of the Pakistan People’s Party demanded after a meeting on Tuesday that the government should step down following reports that US drones had killed seminary students in Bajaur.

Protest demonstrations were also held in other cities of Punjab, including Faisalabad, Wazirabad and Jhang.

Protest demonstrations were also held in several cities and towns of the NWFP, including Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Swat, Charsadda, Haripur, Bannu, Hangu and Dera Ismail Khan.

The deputy chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Prof Ghafoor Ahmad, told demonstrators in Karachi that the American attack on the seminary was an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty. He added that the United States seemed to have enslaved Pakistan after 9/11.

Protest demonstrations were also held in several cities of Sindh, including Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana, Sanghar, Naushehro Feroze, Nawabshah and Shikarpur.