10/01/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Top Islamabad police officials suspended after anti-Musharraf protesters beaten

by Qaiser Felix
Police charged beating hundreds of lawyers and journalists protesting against Musharraf. Top police officials are suspended in response to Supreme Court’s demand. Bomb on Afghan border kills 15 people.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao announced today that two top police officials in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and another city official have been suspended, but gave no further details. Earlier the Supreme Court had demanded their suspension following anti-Musharraf clashes on Saturday in which many people were injured. This morning a bomb exploded in the North-West Frontier Province killing 15 people.

In Islamabad police used batons and tear gas against lawyers and opposition activists who were protesting outside the central headquarters of the Election Commission against Musharraf’s candidacy in the upcoming October 6 election, which the Commission had approved the day before, shouting “Go Musharraf, go” and “shame” “shame”.

Policemen also cut cables of media cameras and ordered newsmen to leave the area.

In retaliation some lawyers and newsmen attacked and beat Tariq Azim, Federal Information Minister who was rescued by police.

Police said that it enforced a demonstration ban in force in the capital, but protesters countered that their protest was peaceful and that police provoked the violence.

Opposition parties and lawyers’ representatives slammed the violence against protesters and journalists, who announced a day of protest.

Fr Khalid Rashid Asi, president of the National Journalists Forum or NJF (a Christian journalist organisation), said that this kind of violence against a peaceful protest by lawyers and journalists shows the government’s desire to hide its own illegal activities using force.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court, chaired by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, demanded the suspension of the officials responsible for the incident after viewing video footage of Saturday's clashes in Islamabad and learning that more than 80 people were treated in hospital in Islamabad, many with head wounds.

Chief Justice Chaudhry said that Islamabad's inspector general of police, Marwat Shah, was “responsible for all that happened on Saturday.”

In the meantime, four policemen and 11 civilians were killed in a suicide bomb attack on the outskirts of Bannu, near the Afghan border; 20 people were also injured. The explosive device appears to have been in an auto-rickshaw that was being checked by police, close to a busy bus stand.

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