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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Day of Prayer Becomes Day of Demonstration

Aired October 12, 2001 - 06:04   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: Let's check in now with our Tom Mintier. He once again, reporting from the Islamabad, Pakistan. He's got the latest for us on the day of protests that we've seen there, and Tom, we obviously further evidence of the - of the pressure building in that country.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely Leon.

This is a day of prayer - a normal day of prayer, but it's also a day of protest and it started even before the prayers began in the port city of Karachi, the first demonstration, several large groups in every area of the city basically causing some severe problems not only for the police but for business owners as well.

There was an American fast food franchise that sells chicken, was one of the targets. You can see the damage that was done to the premises. It was basically set on fire, as was the mayor's car, and it's interesting to point out that the mayor was elected just a couple of months ago. And the party that basically set fire to his car was the same party he ran on the ticket for - the Jamati Islamic and the local leaders of those two parties were placed under house arrest well before these demonstrations got under way.

We are also told by sources in Karachi that some textile plants and one - at least one oil company were also hit by the protesters - no idea yet on any damages, but there were at least three clashes with the police there. Two of them where the police were using tear gas.

Here in Islamabad the preparations got under way early -- both the Army and the police. The Army could be seen going around in gun jeeps early in the day and the police were donning their riot gear and loading onto buses - at least a half of dozen buses that I saw were loaded with riot police basically moving around the city.

But so far, they haven't been used in that way. The demonstrations here in Islamabad fairly peaceful, about 5,000 people on the streets after prayers today - so far, loud, boisterous, but peaceful. No clashes with police. The Pakistani president meetings yesterday with security officials and regional governors said that they needed to make sure that the situation was kept under control. If it wasn't, they would bring the Army out to put down any protests.

But so far the violence has been really limited to Karachi and other cities like Quetta and Pashawar are being watched very closely. Again they said they didn't want to see the Afghan refugees get involved in this. They said if they did and became part of the protest, part of the problem, part of the violence, they would be put on buses, sent to the border and deported back into Afghanistan.

But as the situation stands now here in Islamabad, there is a demonstration under way, but it's fairly peaceful. Leon.

HARRIS: Well Tom, read for us the numbers here. Give us some perspective. I know that we've been saying off and on that these protests don't necessarily represent the majority of the population there. But do you get a sense that it's building or that they're actually gaining momentum in these protests or what?

MINTIER: Well it's really difficult to say. There are 30 - 35 or so umbrella parties that have come together calling for this national day of strike. When you talk about five or 10,000 people, like there are 5,000 on the streets of Islamabad right now, you have to remember there are 140 million people in this country and 5,000 is simply a drop in the bucket.

So if they had 100,000 or 400 or 500,000 on the street, then the government says that would be indeed significant. But when they look at a crowd of 5,000 or 4,000 or something like that, they say this is, you know, just a splinter group that has basically come out either for a demonstration or for violence, but they worry about the violence spreading.

So they're taking action and they have in the last few days since the strikes began to lock up the leaders of the organized demonstrations, basically putting them under house arrest for three months or six months. And we saw in Karachi they did the same thing - locking up two of the leaders of the demonstrations before the demonstrations took place.

So they've tried to prevent these demonstrations, apparently unsuccessful, so they've tried to insure that they were in a peaceful way. The word went out that they wouldn't tolerate any violence, but what we saw first thing this morning in Karachi was indeed the burning of businesses and less than non-violent protests.

HARRIS: It may be a drop in the bucket, but when it comes to violence, any drop in the bucket is a dangerous one.

Tom Mintier in Islamabad, Pakistan. Thank you. We'll talk with you later on.

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