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Protests Spread Across Pakistan

Members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement rally in Karachi, Pakistan's most populous city, where speakers condemned the United States and Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement rally in Karachi, Pakistan's most populous city, where speakers condemned the United States and Gen. Pervez Musharraf. (By Zahid Hussein -- Reuters)

About 19,000 U.S. soldiers operate just over the border in Afghanistan, but the Pakistani government has not given them permission to cross into Pakistani territory in pursuit of al Qaeda fugitives -- many of whom are believed to be hiding out in the rugged and largely lawless tribal areas on the Pakistani side of the frontier. Zawahiri and bin Laden are thought to be among them.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Pakistani government has been under intense pressure from the United States to cooperate more in the hunt for al Qaeda suspects, while some Islamic groups have demanded that it not cave in to U.S. interests.

The Friday attack seemed to provide fresh ammunition to the Islamic groups as they push their anti-American message. An alliance of religious parties known as Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal called Sunday's protests, but opposition political parties, as well as a key coalition partner of the government, also participated in the rallies.

The protests were relatively peaceful. Strict security measures were enforced and all roads leading to U.S. diplomatic missions in Pakistan were blocked by paramilitary forces. A rally Saturday turned violent when the offices of a U.S.-backed aid organization were ransacked and set ablaze.

The demonstrations came as thousands of U.S. troops are involved in major relief and rehabilitation work in areas of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir that were devastated by a massive earthquake last fall. Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush was due in Pakistan on Monday to survey the work. But speakers at the rallies Sunday said he would not be welcome.

"Senior Bush must not be allowed to come to Pakistan unless Junior Bush seeks pardon from the people of Pakistan for killing our innocent children and women," said Ghafoor Ahmad, leader of the radical party Jamaat-e-Islami.

Witte reported from Kabul, Afghanistan. Staff writer Dafna Linzer in Washington contributed to this report.


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