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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Embassies act on Pakistan unrest
Protest in Karachi
Protests have been growing across Pakistan
Western embassies in Pakistan have ordered the families of diplomats and non-essential staff to leave the capital, Islamabad.

The moves come amid fears of increasing unrest in Pakistan as the United States prepares to launch military action against the Taleban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Correspondents say support for the Taleban is strong on the ground in Pakistan and there have been several anti-American protests in the past few days.


The embassies are thinning out their staff out now when it is not too bad so that it is easier if we have to evacuate later

Western diplomat
The Pakistani leader, General Pervez Musharraf, is due to make a televised address at 1530 GMT, as anxiety grows in the region of a possible US attack on Afghanistan.

The British High Commission in Pakistan has issued an order, asking all diplomatic dependents and non-essential staff to leave Islamabad, "in the light of the security situation".

"British nationals who choose to stay in Pakistan should exercise caution, avoid crowds and demonstrations," the High Commission said.

The US embassy said non-essential staff had already been given an option to leave earlier in the week. France, Canada and other European Union countries have also taken similar measures.

Qazi Hussian Ahmed chief of Pakistan's Jamaat-i-Islami party
Religious leaders have opposed Musharraf's move
Australia has issued an advisory asking all its nationals to consider leaving Pakistan.

But diplomats stressed that the moves did not amount to an evacuation.

"The embassies are thinning out their staff out now when it is not too bad so that it is easier if we have to evacuate later," the AFP news agency quoted a western diplomat as saying.

Growing protests

The moves come as 1,000 Islamic students held a protest rally in the north-western city of Peshawar.

They held placards with messages of support for Osama Bin Laden and Taleban leader Mullah Omar, and said if the US attacked Afghanistan they would go there to fight a holy war.

The US flag being burned in Peshawar
Fears that the protests could turn violent
On Tuesday, thousands of students from an Islamic seminary gathered near the American consulate in Karachi, holding placards and shouting slogans against the United States.

Police were deployed to prevent them from approaching the consulate. It was the largest such demonstration in recent days.

Religious leaders in Pakistan have warned that such protests could turn violent if the US launched an attack on Afghanistan.

They are angry at General Musharraf for accepting a US request for assistance in the event of any attack.

The Pakistani leader is expected to defend his decision in his nationwide address later on Wednesday.

See also:

17 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Karachi protest against US
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's tough choice
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bomb blast in Pakistan
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