Pakistan Islamists to protest against US bin Laden raid

Pakistan`s most influential Islamist party urged its followers to hold mass rallies on Friday.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s most influential Islamist party urged its followers to hold mass rallies on Friday to demand their government withdraw its support of the US war on militancy after US commandos killed Osama bin Laden near Islamabad.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), one of the country`s biggest religious political parties, said the United States had violated the sovereignty of key ally Pakistan by sending its own forces into the garrison town of Abbottabad to kill the al Qaeda leader.

Pakistan`s support is key to US efforts to combat Islamist militants, and also to fighting against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"Even if there was any sympathy for the Americans, that would dissipate after the way they crushed and violated our sovereignty and our independence," JI chief Syed Munawar Hasan told a news agency on Thursday.

"We have appealed to everyone to hold peaceful demonstrations on Friday on a very large scale," he said. "Our first demand is Pakistan.... should withdraw from the war on terror."

Anti-American sentiment runs high in Pakistan, despite billions of dollars in aid for the nuclear-armed country with a troubled economy.

Pakistan`s religious parties have not traditionally done well at the ballot box, but they wield considerable influence in a country where Islam is becoming more radicalised.

There have so far been few public protests in Pakistan against bin Laden`s killing early on Monday at Abbottabad, 50 kms (31 miles) north of Islamabad. One of Pakistan`s most violent militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba, held special prayers for the al Qaeda leader and called his death "martyrdom."

The United States war on militancy is unpopular in Pakistan, because of the often high civilian cost of drone attacks against suspected militants along the Afghan border. But many people are also critical of al Qaeda`s radical interpretation of Islam and the suicide bombings its followers carry out.

The fact that bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, after having appeared to have lived there for several years, has also embarrassed many people in the government and the country`s powerful spy agency.

Bureau Report

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