Pakistan Arrests 800 Religious
Activists In Last 24 Hours
By Tom Heneghan and Saul Hudson

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI) - Authorities in Pakistan have arrested more than 800 religious activists during the last 24 hours, officials said Sunday.

The move coincides with President Pervez Musharraf's televised address Saturday evening in which he announced a ban on four religious parties and warned others to shun extremism.

About 300 people were arrested in the southern port city of Karachi, 350 from the southern Sindh province, 100 from the northwest frontier province and 86 from the central Punjab province, officials said.

"As soon as the president concluded his speech, we began shutting down the offices of various militant groups and arresting their activists," a spokesman for the Central Police Office told journalists in Karachi.

Responding to an Indian demand, Musharraf ordered Saturday to disband two Kashmiri militant groups called Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. He also disbanded two sectarian groups, Sipah-e-Sahaba of majority Sunni and Tehrik-e-Jafria of minority Shiite Muslim sects.

India blames Lashkar and Jaish for attacking the parliament building in New Delhi on Dec. 13 and demanded Pakistan disband the groups.

New Delhi also has presented a list of 20 militants it wants extradited for committing terrorist acts against India. Musharraf rejected the demand, saying he would be willing to try and punish them in Pakistan if New Delhi provided evidence against them.

Both the governments have moved thousands of troops along their border and deployed nuclear-capable missiles against each other after the Dec. 13 attack.

U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders have urged both India and Pakistan to show restraint and resolve their differences through talks.

Musharraf's action has been appreciated around the world as a step that would go a long way in controlling religious extremism in Pakistan and in improving India, Pakistan relations.

"There is no place for extremism in Pakistan anymore. Mosques are for worship, not politics," Musharraf declared.
Copyright © 2002 United Press International

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