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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Musharraf firm as protests erupt
Demonstration against US-led strikes, Peshawar, Pakistan Oct 8
Anger boils over on the streets of Pakistan
A man has been killed during rampages by furious protesters in at least two Pakistani cities and President Pervez Musharraf has tried to calm anger at the US-led air strikes in Afghanistan.

Thousands of demonstrators battled police in the cities of Quetta and Peshawar, as General Musharraf tried to reassure Pakistanis that the military action in Afghanistan would be short and would cause few civilian casualties.

We tried to bring moderation to the Taleban government... We tried our utmost but unfortunately it was not possible to prevent the conclusion that happened last night

President Pervez Musharraf
General Musharraf, visibly nervous as he began his first press conference since the strikes, confirmed that Pakistani airspace was used in the operation.

He said "the vast majority" of Pakistanis supported his government's decision to side with the US-led coalition and "extremists" could be controlled.

But demonstrators in Quetta - near the Afghan border and the Taleban's spiritual headquarters in Kandahar - torched buildings and vehicles.

Police tried to disperse them with baton charges and tear gas. There were reports that both police and protestors had fired automatic weapons in the air.

A man was killed by a stray bullet in Quetta and at least 10 people were in hospital with injuries, officials said.

Looting and burning

A building in the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) compound in Quetta was set ablaze, staff said.

Other buildings were attacked, including an office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the same compound.

There were reports that a cinema had been burned to the ground, and officials said a post office had been robbed.

Demonstration against US-led strikes in Quetta, Pakistan Oct 8
"Death to America": protest in Quetta
Protesters shouting anti-western slogans marched towards a hotel where many foreign journalists were confined, presumably for their own safety. Police kept them away by firing tear gas.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Quetta said the authorities appeared to have been caught by surprise.

He said General Musharraf's assertion that most Pakistanis supported him was probably correct, but there could be a backlash if civilians were killed in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan not the target

General Musharraf removed two pro-Taleban Pakistani generals from key positions, in a military reshuffle announced just before the strikes began on Sunday. The head of military intelligence was also removed.

The Pakistani leader stressed that it was not a war against Afghanistan.

The air attacks were being directed against "terrorist camps" near Afghan cities - not the cities themselves, he said.

The Taleban, he said, had been given every chance to avoid attack, but they had not handed over the Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden.

Pakistan's role

General Musharraf said Pakistan - the only country to maintain diplomatic relations with the Taleban - could act as a channel of communication "in best international interest".

He called for a massive rehabilitation effort after the strikes to help Afghanistan rebuild and achieve a stable, broad-based and multi-ethnic government.

But, he warned, Afghanistan's anti-Taleban Northern Alliance should not be allowed to take advantage of the US-led strikes.

He recalled the furious infighting which followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, which he described as a time of "anarchy and atrocities".

"The Northern Alliance must be kept in check so that we don't return to the period of anarchy," he said.

Root causes

The Pakistani leader said that the international community would eventually have to address "the roots of terrorism".

"The root lies in all the sense of deprivation, the sense of powerlessness, going around the world wherever there are disputes around the world and they're not being settled," he said.

Analysts said it was clear he was referring to the main grievances - the conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians and between Russia and the Chechens - repeatedly mentioned by Bin Laden and his supporters to try to justify the 11 September attacks in the United States.

The BBC's Matt Frei in Quetta
"The authorities had expected a backlash to the strikes, but not so swift and not so fierce"
Stephen Cohen, Brookings Institute
"There is no practical alternative to Musharraf"
See also:

08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Excerpts from Musharraf's speech
07 Oct 01 | Americas
US tightens security
08 Oct 01 | Americas
US balancing act
07 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden broadcasts his defiance
20 Sep 01 | Americas
The trail to Bin Laden
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
05 Oct 01 | Americas
The investigation and the evidence
03 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
08 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia moves to protect US embassy
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