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Detentions mount in Pakistan to stifle Bush protests

By Super

Islamabad, Mar 4: Pakistani authorities held leading opposition politicians, including hundreds of Islamists, in detention today (Mar 4, 2006) to stop them protesting against US President George W. Bush's visit to the country.

The leader of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) Islamist alliance, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, was detained at his home in Lahore a few days ago, the second time he has been detained within two weeks.

Police detained up to 350 of the Islamist parties' local-level leaders today in towns dotted around the country to prevent them organising rallies, Liaqat Baluch, an MMA member of the National Assembly, told Reuters.

Baluch said he expected a protest in the eastern city of Lahore to go ahead despite the detentions.

Police also detained former cricket hero turned politician Imran Khan at his residence to stop him leading a demonstration in Rawalpindi, the garrison town next to the capital, Islamabad.

Khan, who retains a high profile despite his Tehrik-i-Insaaf party's meagre support, says U.S. support for Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup in 1999, is delaying the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

A Pashtun himself, Khan is also highly critical of the conduct of the war on terrorism by Pakistani and U.S. forces in the Pashtun tribal lands straddling the Pakistan-Afghan border.

''We were at a dinner late last night, and when we came out we were arrested,'' said Khan's political secretary, Saifullah Niazi. ''They took him to his house, and he's still under arrest.'' Officials in Khan's party said up to 150 of their colleagues had been picked up by police.


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