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Mintier: Some Pakistan protests turn into riots

(CNN) -- Riots broke out in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday as demonstrators, protesting the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan, burned cars and a restaurant. Violence erupted on Monday in Quetta as well, while protests in Islamabad were relatively peaceful.

CNN's London Bureau Chief Tom Mintier is following events from Islamabad.

MINTIER: As you heard, the pot is simmering in Quetta; it already boiled over in Karachi. Early this morning, long before prayers, the demonstrators were out in large numbers, but so were the police. Several pitched battles between the demonstrators and police resulted in tear gas being fired at two of the demonstration sites.

They hit several areas of the city, set fire to at least seven vehicles -- including two city buses -- and even the mayor's car was burned. Now, the mayor comes from the political party that was also conducting the demonstration, so he may have something to say about the damage done to his car.

But it was quite obvious in Karachi that the police were going to have zero tolerance for any looting and damage that went on. Despite this, an American fast-food restaurant was torched and moderately damaged.

The franchisee had put up a wooden blockage over the sign on the building several days ago, but apparently everybody in Karachi knows where it is, so they know where to come if they want to do some damage. They set fire to this restaurant. Firefighters were brought in and basically brought the blaze under control quickly. But definitely beyond demonstrations -- these were pitched battles that were going on between the police and the demonstrators.

The situation is somewhat different in Islamabad. The police were definitely out in large numbers. On the streets you could see the army, even, in their gun jeeps patrolling the streets in the early morning hours, and the police loading up in riot buses at least half a dozen riot buses that I saw were packed full of riot police in full battle gear as they made their way around the city.

Well, that wasn't necessary because the demonstration here of about 5,000 people was indeed peaceful. They simply walked through the streets chanting their slogans, but there was no violence and no damage to property.

The Pakistani president had basically put everyone on notice that they would not allow (what) happened in Quetta on Monday to happen again, where the U.N.'s UNICEF office was set on fire. He basically put everyone on notice that if they did damage, they would definitely go to jail.

CNN: The other thing we need to watch at this time is reaction on the streets of Pakistan. There are reports this week that logistical support is being supplied to U.S. troops to at two different bases in Pakistan. Has there been much more response on that front?

MINTIER: There really hasn't. The military and the police had these locations locked down pretty well. Anyone coming within several kilometers must have the right paperwork for access. There are no demonstrations going on at either of those locations. But this is indeed a very sensitive point.

The government has maintained that this is only logistical, that it is part of the package that President Musharraf promised President Bush, that they would provide intelligence, that they would provide logistical support, that they would allow the flights hitting Afghanistan to have over-fly protection in Pakistani airspace.

When pressed what the mission might be for the planes and personnel on the ground, Pakistani officials would say, "It goes in the area of logistical support and we won't comment any further on it."


• Pakistan protests follow prayers
October 12, 2001

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