Pak. leader's house under siege

ISLAMABAD, APRIL 29. Police cordoned off the residence of the Chairman of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), Nawabzada Nasraullah Khan, in central Punjab province to frustrate his attempt to hold an anti-Government May day rally in Karachi even as Pakistan's military regime said the ban on political rallies would continue till the general elections scheduled for October 2002.

Police erected barricades outside the residence of Mr. Khan and asked him to stay indoors following rumours that the leader might leave for Karachi in disguise to attend the rally, reports reaching from Lahore said.

Mr. Khan has already been expelled from Karachi and banished to enter it till the deadline of the rally passed off. Mr. Khan told reporters at Lahore that he planned to approach the Supreme Court to lift the ban on the rally. It will be a test for the judiciary to decide whether the military regime's laws were more powerful than the Constitution, he told reporters who were allowed into his residence. He said he was waiting for his detention orders and ``as soon as they are served on me, I shall challenge these as well''. Armies were meant to fight enemies and not their own people. Unlike Japan and India where the Prime Ministers replace each other every now and then, Pakistan was saddled with army rule, Mr. Khan said.

Meanwhile Pakistan's Interior Minister, Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, told reporters on Saturday that the ARD would not be permitted to hold rallies till October 2002, the deadline fixed by the Supreme Court for the government to hold elections.

The ARD was free to hold a reference to express solidarity and pay tributes to Chicago martyrs but that should also take place within four walls. The Government would not allow anybody to violate the ban on outdoor political activities, he said.

The provincial Sindh Government has already banned the proposed ARD rally which was called to demand an end to the military rule.

Opposition parties alleged that the Government, in its crackdown on political activists, has arrested over 2,000 workers since the last week. The Government, however, said around 600 people have been detained to maintain peace.

The Amnesty International and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan have condemned the arrests and demanded immediate release of what they called `prisoners of conscious'. The U.S. has also criticised the Government's action saying it has exposed its claim of civil liberties. Meanwhile, a section of the ARD's local leadership of Sindh province has gone into hiding. The ARD leaders who managed to escape the dragnet of police, held a meeting in Karachi to chalk out their strategy, reports said. The leaders would hold a meeting in Karachi despite the ban and arrests.


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