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Sunday, August 22, 1999 Published at 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK


World: South Asia

Hardline protest in Islamabad

Thousands converged on the capital for the rally

Thousands of women from the hardline Islamic based party, Jamaat-i-Islami, have protested in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, against the government of Nawaz Sharif.

The women threw bangles at a cardboard image of the prime minister - a sign that they consider him a coward.

Rally organisers say Mr Sharif should have given more support to the Islamic militants who are fighting Indian troops.

Protest

The all-women rally took place in front of the parliament building. "Down with Sharif, Down with India," read placards held by the protesters.


[ image: Women threw bangles at a cutout of Nawaz Sharif]
Women threw bangles at a cutout of Nawaz Sharif
French news agency AFP says Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad attacked the Pakistan prime minister for "ruinous misrule" and the "cowardly withdrawal" of fighters from Indian-administered Kashmir.

The party is one of a number of religious-based groups which opposed the decision to withdraw Pakistani-backed forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control during the recent conflict.

Opposition

Kashmir Conflict
Pakistan denied that any of its troops were involved but agreed to "influence" the fighters - who they said were Kashmiri freedom fighters - to withdraw. The move follows pressure from the United States.

Mr Sharif's decision earned him sharp criticism from his political opponents, particularly those on the religious right.

The BBC correspondent in Islamabad says many other religious based groups in Pakistan have made clear their opposition to Nawaz Sharif's Kashmir policy.

The parliamentary opposition is also now focusing on the Kashmir issue. But government ministers do not believe the protests are large enough to threaten their hold on power.



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