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America's New War: Pro Government Demonstrations in Pakistan

Aired September 27, 2001 - 05:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, keeping duty for us in Islamabad, Pakistan has been Tom Mintier for the duration. And let's check with him now and get the latest from the border and find out what's been happening with the demonstrations there.

Tom, good morning.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

It is a day of demonstrations unlike one's we've seen in the past. This one is pro government. It is solidarity day, as they call it here in Pakistan. Large cities across the country, they are holding simultaneous demonstrations, rallies, meetings, discussions, talk shows on radio and TV. In Islamabad this morning, a rather larger group, larger than we've seen on the streets, coming out, and not as noisy as some of the opposition ones but definitely a supportive demonstration filled with music from high school marching bands as students gathered in downtown Islamabad to basically show their support.

The president whose speech a week ago talked about the silent majority, the people who are not speaking out, the ones he says who are not speaking out against the policy of supporting the United States in its war against terrorism.

A lot of people talk to me on the street here in Islamabad when I walk around town, and they say why doesn't anyone ever ask me what I think? Well, we went out today to ask these people what they did think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will love not only the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, we love people of America because they are innocent. And we are against the terrorism. We want peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not Pakistani, we are not Afghanis, we are not Arabian. We are just Muslims. We're are just Muslims, and Muslims are just one nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A true Muslim can never, ever do such a crime because Islam forbids terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all are gathered here to tell the world that we are supporting our president, because whatever the theme he has taken, he has taken for betterment of Pakistan I'm sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MINTIER: It should be pointed out that these demonstrations were partly organized by the government. And unlike a demonstration that was held yesterday in Karachi that the opposition came and threw some firecrackers and caused some injuries into the crowd, these ones were held today without any opposition -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, Tom, now to the other issue that is a pressing one there, that of the refugees. What is the latest on that situation? The U.N. is still giving us some dire predictions on that.

MINTIER: They are indeed dire predictions. There is talk now of a 1.5 people -- a million into Pakistan, 500,000 into Iran. The U.N. has put out an appeal for more than $250 million in assistance. The borders here are still closed. There are discussions between the relief agencies and the Pakistani government about possibly opening them for women and children, but people are still showing up at the border, not in huge numbers, but there is growing concern here. There's going to be some supplies that come in -- 80,000 tents are being brought in by the relief agencies but what they say they need most is money right now -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Tom, let me ask you quickly, if I can, about one other topic that's related to that, everything I've been reading has been indicating that this refugee situation may actually destabilize Pakistan. I mean what's the reading on that there?

MINTIER: Well, I talked to people in the government about that and there is a concern because there is already a very large refugee population already in Pakistan, nearly two million, and they are in camps but many are in the population areas. Basically they're in the marketplaces. You can find Afghans in any major city.

Now there is some concern because Afghanistan has had duty free privileges from the Pakistanis. They basically bring things into the port in Karachi and then truck them into the border -- across the border with Afghanistan. A lot of these goods are finding their way back into the markets. And Afghan sellers basically undercutting the market here dutied items with duty free items that have been brought supposedly into Afghanistan to stay there but they end up coming across the border passes and back into the market here making it very difficult for Pakistani merchants to compete.

HARRIS: Understood. Thank you very much. Tom Mintier reporting live from Islamabad, Pakistan this morning, we'll talk with you later.

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