As Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf readies himself for the opening of the UN General Assembly this weekend in New York, pro-Taliban religious leaders launched demonstrations today against his regime back home. Police sources told Pakistani reporters they had shot and killed three protesters who had taken over main roadways and blocked a train track. Religious leaders, organized under the umbrella group Pakistan Defense Council, claimed they had taken four cops hostage and had two of their members killed.
Musharraf’s support for American strikes against Afghanistan has caused great anger among Muslims who sympathize with the Taliban. Thousands have pledged to cross the border and join Taliban forces, and many are believed to have been killed in battles there already.
Armed police convoys were on the roads around Islamabad, the capital city, and Musharraf promised to squash demonstrations. The protesters were killed in an exchange of fire with police carrying automatic weapons. Cops were also reportedly wounded. The demonstrators were said to have seized an express train. “The situation remains very tense,” said one government source. “We have sent reinforcements, and we are using tear gas and baton charges to disperse the crowd and clear the highway and rail line.”
In recent weeks, Musharraf has imprisoned several fundamentalist religious leaders and removed military commanders he considered too closely tied to the Taliban. Now his government has told the Taliban to close its consulate in Karachi, a large port city.
Meanwhile, the Taliban formally conferred citizenship on Osama bin Laden, who has been bounced around the Middle East since being exiled from Saudi Arabia. Before now, the wanted international terrorist has officially been a guest in Afghanistan.