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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Activists Detained in Pakistan Ahead of Protest

By VOA News
12 March 2009

Pakistani police arrested dozens of political activists in Karachi Thursday, just as a massive four-day, anti-government march was to set to begin.

A coalition including Pakistani lawyers and opposition party members vowed to hold the march, despite efforts by President Asif Ali Zardari to stop the demonstrations.

On Wednesday, authorities rounded up hundreds of political activists and banned public gatherings in two key provinces.

The march puts protesters on a collision course with the government and raises questions about the stability of Mr. Zardari's year-old civilian government.

Protesters are demanding that President Zardari reinstate a Supreme Court justice who was ousted by former President Pervez Musharaff. The issue prompted opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to withdraw from the coalition government.

Political tensions rose even further last month, after a court ruling barring Mr. Sharif and his brother from holding public office.

Demonstrators plan to march from cities around the country and converge on the capital of Islamabad Monday, when they plan to hold at it-in at the parliament building.

Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani offered some concessions to Sharif supporters. Mr. Gilani said the government has faced "severe criticism" since the court ruling banning Mr. Sharif from elected office and removing his brother as chief minister of Punjab province.

The prime minister said he will advise President Zardari to reconsider his imposition of governor's rule in Punjab, Sharif's stronghold, and allow the majority party to establish its own government.

Immediately after the Supreme Court's recent decision, the president installed a member of his own party in the post of chief minister once held by Shahbaz Sharif.

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