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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Pakistan cracks down on Islamists
Islamists demonstrate in Pakistan
Pakistan is moving against Islamic hardliners
Police in Pakistan have arrested hundreds of Islamic activists after the government banned two hardline sectarian organisations.

On Tuesday, President Pervez Musharraf banned the Shia organisation, Sipah-e-Mohammad Pakistan and the Sunni underground group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, accusing them of inciting sectarian strife.

On Wednesday it appeared the president's orders were put into action.

In the Pakistani city of Lahore, police shut down offices, arrested Islamic activists and raided their homes.

In a statement Allama Sajid Naqvi, the leader of the main Shia political party Tehreek-e-Jafria Pakistan, said hundreds of his party workers had been arrested.

He said they were mistakenly taken to be Sipah-e-Mohammad activists.

A party building - which he also used as a residence - was sealed by the police.

Sectarian killings

However, reports quoted Lahore police officials saying they had been unable to locate offices of the extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Musharraf during Independence Day celebrations
Pervez Musharraf: Banned the groups on Tuesday
Speaking to the BBC, Mujib ur Rehman Inqilabi of the Sipah-e-Mohammad Pakistan said at least 300 of his party workers had been arrested in the province of Punjab.

But he denied that his party had any link with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Last month the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi said it killed a senior member of Pakistan's defence ministry, Syed Zafar Hussain, in the southern city of Karachi.

In less than 10 years, at least 1,000 people have been killed in Pakistan in sectarian attacks - 600 in Punjab province alone.

Most of the attacks have been blamed on the two outlawed organisations.

The banned groups have threatened to resist against the crackdown.

See also:

28 Feb 01 | South Asia
Clashes follow Pakistani execution
05 Jan 01 | South Asia
Nine dead in Pakistan religious clash
02 Feb 00 | South Asia
Death penalty for Shia killers
12 Apr 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's religious rift
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