Authorities have banned rallies in eastern Pakistan to stop a planned Islamist protest against recent changes to the country's controversial Islamic rape laws, officials said on Thursday.
A six-party coalition of Islamic groups, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) or United Action Forum, has been holding rallies since the beginning of the month when Parliament began debating a bill to help rape victims.
Hardline Muslim lawmakers had opposed the bill, saying it violates Islamic law.
Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf is expected to sign the bill on December 4 at a special ceremony in Islamabad to make the legislation part of the constitution. But the MMA has vowed to step up its protests.
On Wednesday, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the president of MMA, said he would lead a protest march today from the eastern city of Lahore to Gujarat, a nearby city.
But late yesterday night, the provincial government issued a statement banning rallies in an attempt to block it.
Local police official Amir Zulifquar said police were upholding the protest ban.
Munawar Hassan, a senior leader of the MMA, told newsmen on Thursday that police had detained scores of supporters and blocked the planned march route of their rally by erecting barricades.
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim Ruling League, has meanwhile urged the coalition to postpone the rally and enter inter-party talks on the legislation.