Pakistan police arrest hundreds

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The Independent Online

Police in Pakistan have moved to thwart a major protest against US-led strikes on Afghanistan by barring travel by the head of Pakistan's largest Islamic party and arresting scores of militants.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islam party, angry at the restraints on his travel, said "Musharraf will no longer in power after a few days".

Pakistan, an ally in the US-led military campaign, has clamped down hard on protests by Islamic militants since shortly before the US airstrikes started.

The moves were aimed at defusing a rally called for tomorrow at Pakistan's air base at Jacobabad. Islamic activists charge Americans are using the base for attacks in Afghanistan.

President Pervez Musharraf's government insists Pakistan is lending only logistical support to the campaign.

Anticipating a showdown, Ahmed arrived at Lahore international airport for a flight to Jacobabad backed by a chanting, angry throng of hundreds of his supporters. Police presented him with a written government order forbidding him to fly .

In Sind province, home of Jacobabad, police have arrested at least 500 activists of Pakistan's three leading Islamic organizations, said Munawar Hasan, spokesman of Jamaat-e-Islam. Officials put the number of arrests, which activists said were continuing Monday, only in the dozens.

Jacobabad saw running street battles between Islamic militants and police on 14 October, with at least one protester killed as mobs fought to reach the air base.