Pak anti-war protesters go on hunger strike

Some 50 men and women began a hunger strike in Multan on Saturday over the killing of Iraqi civilians.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2003 19:02 IST

Some 50 men and women began a hunger strike in the central Pakistani city of Multan on Saturday over the killing of Iraqi civilians as anti-war protests continued across the country.

The protesters erected a camp in an open space in the city's Shujabad area to draw the United Nations' attention to what they called the "indiscriminate" bombings by US-led coalition forces, witnesses said.

The camp was bedecked with banners declaring that "the UN should take action against bombings of civilian targets" in Iraq and "save the lives of innocent Iraqi men, women and children".

The participants, who included local residents, traders and members of the local municipal committees, said the hunger strike would continue until unset.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar more than 200 students staged a rally while another 300 gathered inside a mosque as part of a continued protest by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of major Islamic parties.

The students, mostly from Islamic seminaries chanted "No war for oil" and "Stop bloodshed in Iraq" while a banner described US President George W Bush as the "real terrorist".

Addressing the rally, Abdul Akbar Chitrali -- an MP from the MMA -- said the US had challenged the entire Islamic world by attacking Iraq.

"The Muslim world must face this aggression with unity otherwise other Islamic countries would also face such aggression one by one."

He also called upon the Pakistan government to shun its "apologetic" stance on the Iraq war. "We must openly condemn US aggression and support Iraq," he said.

Another MMA leader, Mufti Kifayatullah, told the gathering in the mosque that the US had begun "Crusades" and the Islamic world must "unite to foil the designs of anti-Islam forces".

The MMA has planned a mass rally, dubbed as a "million march", in Peshawar on Sunday to express solidarity with the people of Iraq.

Residents said about a dozen camps had been set up in the city to receive people from different places in the North West Frontier Province, which is ruled by MMA parties.

The camps are equipped with public address systems urging locals to attend the rally in large numbers. They are also screening video tapes of the war in Iraq.

A similar rally called by the MMA in the eastern city of Lahore last week was joined by an estimated crowd of 200,000.

First Published: Mar 29, 2003 19:02 IST