Islamabad: Riot police fired teargas
shells and used batons to disperse hundreds of members of a
religious group who were holding a march against Taliban
bombings in Pakistan, organisers and witnesses said.
Several hundred activists from Sunni Muslim groups
started the "Long March" from Islamabad this morning and
planned to go to Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
The Punjab government had banned the rally, fearing it
could be attacked by militants.
Despite the ban, around 200 activists of the Sunni
Ittehad Council succeeded in marching from Islamabad to the
garrison city of Rawalpindi.
The march was aimed at protesting recent Taliban
attacks on shrines of Sufi saints, Council leader Hanif Tayyab
Police parked containers on the main highway between
Rawalpindi and Lahore to stop the marchers who were on foot
and in vehicles, Tayyab said.
When the marchers succeeded in crossing barriers,
police in Rawalpindi used teargas and batons to stop them from
proceeding to Lahore.
"We will try to reach Lahore to stage a protest
there," Tayyab said, adding that hundreds of people have been
arrested across Pakistan to prevent the rally.
Officials said that the march was banned following
reports of a possible attack by militants.
Witnesses said participants threw stones at the
police, turning parts of Rawalpindi into a battleground.
Several participants damaged a police van, officials