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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 May, 2003, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Pakistan militants attack circus
By Adnan Adil
BBC, Lahore

Rally led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) - part of MMA religious alliance
The MMA has been rallying members
Hundreds of people have been injured in a stampede at a circus in northern Pakistan after Islamic activists assaulted the spectators.

The charge occurred after students from Islamic seminaries in Gujranwala, a northern city of Pakistan near Lahore, ransacked and torched the circus on Friday.

Armed with sticks and clubs, the attackers denounced it as obscene and "un-Islamic".

Eyewitnesses say the student attackers, who numbered over 100 were led by a local cleric, Qazi Hameedullah. He is a national assembly member and representative of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal or the MMA, an alliance of radical religious parties.

The police resorted to using their batons as they tried to disperse the crowd. A fire brigade was called to put out the fire.

The mobs attempted to attack another circus, but were prevented by the police, who closed it down and ordered the closure of eight theatres in the town to prevent further damage.

No arrests

Qazi Hameedullah said he had told the administration to shut down the circuses, which he described as centres of obscenity and gambling.

So far the police have not made any arrests.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Chaudhry Iqbal told the BBC that the law would be upheld. But he refused to say why the police had not opened a case against the attackers.

The six-party religious alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), is in opposition in the national parliament and in Punjab province.

It runs a provincial government in the North West Frontier province.

Last week, MMA activists destroyed advertising billboards in Peshawar which depicted women.

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