Thousands of angry Pakistanis have protested against the presence of US troops in the region, a possible attack
on Iraq and what one banner called the "Holocaust of the Muslims". Demonstrators also burnt an effigy of US President George W. Bush in nationwide protests organised by the six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Islamic
coalition, which made huge gains in an October election. In the largest rallies, police looked on as around 2,000
people gathered in the central city of Multan. Similar numbers gathered in Lahore and in Quetta, near the Afghan border, where opposition to US action in
Afghanistan is strongest. "War will continue until Bush's destruction," the crowd shouted in Multan, located in the populous Punjab province. "Bush is thirsty for Muslims' blood." In Peshawar protesters burnt an effigy of Bushand
shouted "No war on Iraq"
Pakistanis Protest Possible War With Iraq
By PAUL HAVEN
Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - 3 Jan -- Pakistani security agencies were
on high alert and extra troops were being deployed near
the U.S. Embassy and other sensitive sites to maintain
order during a nationwide strike called Friday to
protest a potential U.S.-led war against Iraq.
The demonstrations -- called by hard-line Islamic
leaders that won unprecedented support in recent
nationwide elections -- were planned in all of
Pakistan's major cities. The religious leaders also
called for shops to shutter their windows in allegiance.
Supporters say the marches are just a taste of the anger
that an attack on Saddam Hussein's regime would cause in
Pakistan, a deeply conservative Muslim country, but a
crucial ally in the U.S.-led war on terror.
"The American attack on Iraq will be an attack on the
Islamic world," said Fazl-ur Rahman, a one time can
didate for prime minister and a leader of the Islamist
coalition, called the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal. "If today
we cannot stop America from attacking Iraq, then
tomorrow they will attack Iran, and then it could be
There have been a series of terrorist attacks on
Westerners and Pakistani Christians since President Gen.
Pervez Musharraf's decision to side with the United
States in its efforts to topple the Taliban regime in
neighboring Afghanistan, and some fear the anger will
intensify if America wages war on another Muslim
Most Western embassies in Pakistan are already operating
at emergency levels, with families evacuated after a
grenade attack on a church in March that killed a U.S.
Embassy employee and her 17-year-old daughter. In June,
a large car bomb went off outside the U.S. Consulate in
Karachi, killing 12 Pakistanis. A suicide bombing in
that southern city in May killed 14 people, including 11
Interior Ministry spokesman Iftikhar Ahmad said extra
police will be deployed outside the U.S. Embassy in
Islamabad and consulates in other cities during Friday's
"Sentiments are always high when clerics hold rallies
against America, but the provincial governments have
prepared security plans to maintain law and order," he
Pakistan's government, which on Jan. 1 took over a seat
on the 15-member U.N. Security Council, has been
reluctant to discuss it's position on Iraq. But Prime
Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali urged his countrymen not
to waste their energy defending Saddam Hussein's regime.
"Give a glance back in history, and see whether Iraq
helped Pakistan during its times of crisis," Jamali said
Protests were expected to get under way in the
afternoon, after traditional Friday prayers in which
hard-line clerics were to rally their supporters at
mosques. Shopkeepers were also asked to close, though
many businesses were shut already because Friday is the
Additional barricades and cement walls have been erected
outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital and soldiers in
sandbag bunkers guard the diplomatic enclave, a
neighborhood where foreign missions are located and
vehicles are routinely stopped and checked.
Religious leaders promised that their supporters would
not resort to violence.
"We will be peaceful," said Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the
leader of Pakistan's oldest and most organized religious
party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a member of the
Tensions were already heightened ahead of Friday's
protests after a weekend shootout between American and
Pakistani forces along the Pakistan-Afghan border. A
U.S. warplane dropped a bomb along the border after a
rogue Pakistani border guard shot and wounded an
The U.S. military says the entire clash took place on
Afghan soil, but Pakistan's government says only that it
is investigating to see if the Americans crossed over
into its territory.