Crackdown ahead of Pakistan rally

Police detain hundreds on eve of a rally to be addressed by suspended chief justice.

    Chaudhry, left,  is expected to address a rally in Karachi on Saturday [AFP]

    Attorneys for Chaudhry said the judge would go ahead with his visit to Karachi to address lawyers despite worry about clashes with government supporters, who will hold their own rally, and a request from authorities to cancel because of fears of terrorism.

     

    Crackdown

       

    Opposition leaders said hundreds of activists were detained overnight and in pre-dawn raids in Karachi.

       

    Police also drove off people trying to set up rallying points along the road Chaudhry will take from the airport and tore down banners put up to welcome him.

       

    "They are trying their best to sabotage our programme. They have removed our camps and arrested 450 activists," said Munawar Hassan, a leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an opposition alliance of six religious parties.

        

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    The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the main party in the provincial government and a partner in the federal government, has called for a rally to oppose Chaudhry's visit.

        

    Police and a provincial government spokesman said some opposition activists had been detained and some camps removed as they were obstructing traffic.

       

    "We're keeping a very vigilant eye," said the spokesman and MQM member Sallahuddin Haider. "We're not expecting clashes. The MQM would not like the city to be disturbed but I'm afraid some outsiders might try to instigate problems."

     

    The crisis has erupted in the run-up to a general election and an anticipated attempt by Musharraf, an important US ally, to secure another term.

       

    Musharraf, who is also army chief, is due to seek re-election in September or October and wants to be re-elected by the national and provincial assemblies before they are dissolved for elections due around the turn of the year.

       

    Analysts say his main motive in seeking the removal of the independent-minded Chaudhry is to have a more pliable man in place in case of a constitutional challenge to his plans.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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