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In Pakistan, anti-U.S. sentiment growing

By Mike Chinoy
CNN Senior Asia Correspondent

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (CNN) -- The chants reverberated through the narrow streets of Peshawar, Pakistan: "Long live the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Death to America."

Over 1,000 students from an Islamic religious school marched to protest Pakistan's support for the United States.

"We won't let the Americans use Pakistan to attack Afghanistan," said student Sena Tullah Sahil. "We will fight to the last drop of blood against the enemies of Islam."

As President Gen. Pervez Musharraf struggles to convince his people that siding with Washington is the right decision, such sentiments have been heard with increasing frequency at similar demonstrations across the country.

At a glance: Pakistan  

Despite the angry rhetoric, so far most of the demonstrations have been relatively peaceful and modest in scale. The concern is that this may not remain the case.

Speakers at this gathering warned of armed struggle if the United States attacks -- and the number of unregistered weapans in the province is estimated to be close to 5 million.

Indeed, this lawless corner of northwestern Pakistan, where many residents have longstanding links of religion, ethnicity and blood with neighboring Afghanistan, is likely to be at the forefront of any upsurge in anti-government agitation.

The organizational backing for such protests comes from a network of religious schools called Madrassas run by Islamic fundamentalists like Quri Fayaz Ur Rahman. Many have close ties to the Taliban.

"Terrorism is different from jihad, or holy war," he said. "Jihad is to fight oppression. And if innocent Afghans are killed in attacks, that is oppression."

It's a world view that sees U.S. President George W. Bush as a symbol of evil, to be burned in effigy, and Osama Bin Laden as an Islamic hero.

There are many in Pakistan who don't share it. But enough do for the government to remain deeply concerned about future trouble in the streets.

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