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Pakistani government spokesman Javed Jabbar
"We live in conditions which are very vulnerable to subversion and sabotage "
 real 28k

Ahmed Rashid of the Far Eastern Economic Review
"There are multiple domestic reasons as to why the government should do this"
 real 28k

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington:
"If the reports are correct, this will be on President Clinton's agenda"
 real 28k

The BBC's Ade Akintowa:
"It is felt the ban is an attempt to undermine the Muslim League support"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 22:09 GMT
Pakistan bans political rallies
US flag burned
Anti-US protest in Islamabad: All outdoor rallies are now banned
The military government in Pakistan has outlawed all outdoor political meetings, strikes and processions.

The country cannot afford the luxury of agitation and violence which disrupts normal public life

Government statement
It is the first ban on political activity since the military seized power in a bloodless coup last year.

A statement issued after a government meeting in Islamabad said the ban would come into effect immediately.

Pakistan in crisis
Indoor meetings will be allowed as long as loudspeakers are not used.

The statement said that in the interest of Pakistan's future, it was expected that all political and religious parties would exhibit "responsible behaviour".

Opposition leaders protested at the move.

'Hostile acts'

The ban was imposed 10 days before President Clinton visits Pakistan, having made it clear he will call for a speedy return to democracy.

The order said there were reports that elements were planning "hostile acts to create chaos and portray Pakistan as an irresponsible state".

Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif: Deposed last October
Government spokesman Javed Jabber told the BBC that Pakistan was vulnerable to subversion from its neighbour - a reference to India.

Army chief General Musharraf suspended parliament and the constitution when he seized power in last October - but did not impose martial law.

He has not yet made clear when Pakistan will be returned to civilian rule.

Suprise move

Ijaz ul-Haq, senior vice-president of the Pakistan Muslim League, the party in government at the time of the coup, said he saw the ban as a step backwards for the return to democracy.

Mr Ul-Haq said he had been expecting General Musharraf would take steps towards freer political activity in the run-up to the Clinton visit.

There is speculation in Pakistan that resurgent activity by the Muslim League could be one of the factors behind this clamp down.

Despite the absence of such a ban after the coup, few political rallies have been held.

But ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Shaif's wife Khulsoom has addressed some rallies in recent weeks denouncing the coup and the arrest and trial of her husband.

Police have begun action against her for remarks criticising the military government.

Together with the ban on open air political gatherings came a renewal of the promise that local government elections will be held by the end of this year.

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08 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistan hails Clinton visit
25 Feb 00 | South Asia
India urges Clinton to shun Islamabad
03 Feb 00 | South Asia
Pakistan urges Clinton visit
01 Feb 00 | South Asia
Clinton to visit India
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