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Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Pakistan sticks by Taleban ties
Pakistani border soldier (right) questions Afghan refugees entering at Chaman
Pakistan has boosted security on the Afghan border
The Pakistan Government has ruled out severing diplomatic ties with the ruling Taleban in neighbouring Afghanistan, saying the move would be counter-productive.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are now the only two countries that recognise the Taleban, after the United Arab Emirates announced on Saturday that it had cut ties with the Islamic fundamentalist government in Kabul.

It's a kind of geographical compulsion that we have to maintain our links with Afghanistan

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman
Pakistan has pledged support for the US drive to force Afghanistan to hand over Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden. Washington has named him as the chief suspect in the devastating 11 September suicide attacks in the United States.

Four people died and several others were injured in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday when pro-Taleban protests there turned violent.

Pro-Taleban religious parties are planning to hold further demonstrations in Pakistan on Saturday.

'Window to the world'

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman, Riaz Mohammad Khan, said it was essential for Islamabad to maintain diplomatic relations with Kabul.

General Pervez Musharraf
General Musharraf: trying to keep the lid on pro-Taleban protests
"Even during the Soviet intervention, we maintained our embassy in Kabul. It's a kind of geographical compulsion that we have to maintain our links with Afghanistan, which is a landlocked country," he said.

Mr Khan also pointed out that nearly all the humanitarian assistance for war-ravaged Afghanistan was supplied through Pakistan, where many aid agencies are based.

He described the Afghan embassy in Islamabad as a vital "window to the world," through which the Taleban's communications with the international community were maintained.

But Mr Khan said most employees at the Kabul embassy had been withdrawn and the ambassador himself had been absent for several months.

Security fears

Islamabad is anxious to prevent the Afghan crisis from destabilising Pakistan, and has already moved to thwart a new influx of Afghan refugees.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is due to meet provincial governors, police chiefs and other officials on Saturday, including some from the military.

Click here for map of Afghanistan

A government official said they would discuss strengthening security measures to maintain public order.

Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam leader, Faz ul Rehman, addresses an anti-US rally in Peshawar
Religious leaders addressed the massive crowds
Three people were shot dead in Karachi and one died of a heart attack during violent pro-Taleban demonstrations on Friday.

Police used tear gas to break up several rallies as the demonstrators hurled stones and attacked shops and businesses.

A shopkeeper was lynched to death when he tried to defy the strike call and open his shop.

In Peshawar, which borders Afghanistan, angry protesters gathered before and after Friday prayers to hear religious leaders make speeches in support of the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden.

Speakers at the rallies attacked US President George W Bush's use of the word "crusade" to describe his planned war on terrorism.

"If America wants a crusade, then we are ready for a holy war," said one preacher.

Pakistan's main political parties, including the Pakistan People's Party and the Muslim League, have indicated they will support President Musharraf's stance.

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The BBC's Paul Welsh in Peshawar
"We are still in the early stages and people are dying in this country"
Dr Rassool Baksh Rais, international affairs expert
"Pakistan has already made up its mind"
The BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad
"Crunch time will come if and when we begin to see American military action"
See also:

19 Sep 01 | Media reports
Text: Musharraf rallies Pakistan
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Karachi protest against US
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's tough choice
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Kabul checkpoints stem refugee exodus
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Embassies act on Pakistan unrest
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