Islamists held in Pak ahead of toon protests
Pakistani police detained dozens of Islamists and heightened security across the country ahead of planned nationwide protests.india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 17:42 IST
Pakistani police detained dozens of Islamists and heightened security across the country ahead of planned nationwide protests on Friday against the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in Western newspapers.
However, no major leader of a radical Islamic coalition calling for rallies was arrested after assurances were given that protests would be peaceful, police said.
"We are holding only 35 activists of religious parties to stop them from taking part in rallies, as we feared that they might disrupt law and order," said Khawaja Khalid Farooq, the police chief in the eastern city of Lahore.
Islamists torched hundreds of vehicles, a provincial parliament building, shops and Western businesses last week during rallies in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province.
Three people were killed in the violence.
As well as the 35 in Lahore, people were also picked up by police in overnight raids in the capital Islamabad and nearby city of Rawalpindi.
Shahid Shamsi, spokesman for the six-party coalition Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), or United Action Forum, said 31 supporters were arrested in Islamabad and Rawalpindi ahead of the rallies they wanted to stage after Friday prayers.
"With this type of provocation, it becomes difficult for us to keep our people peaceful," he said late on Thursday.
But Sikandar Hayat, a senior Islamabad police officer, said only one alliance activist was arrested in the capital.
He said since there was a ban on rallies in Islamabad, anyone trying to violate it would be arrested.
Authorities say they have deployed security forces outside mosques and at major places across the country to ensure peace during Friday's rallies.
In Pakistan, five people have died in recent weeks in violent pretests against the cartoons, which were first published in Denmark in September.
Islamic tradition frowns on any depiction of Muhammad, and the satiric nature of some of the Danish cartoons -- such as one showing Muhammad's turban shaped as a bomb -- further inflamed some Muslims.