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Pakistan bans rallies in bid to stem unrest

Pakistan protest
Rallies and large demonstrations have been frequent throughout Pakistan, especially in pro-Taliban areas  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- In an effort to crack down on civil unrest, the Pakistani government ordered new measures Wednesday night that bans rallies and restricts freedom of assembly.

A complete ban on any kind of rally is now in effect nationwide, Interior Ministry sources told CNN.

Under the measures, the government could take both punitive and preventive action against leaders and individuals who are found to be planning or carrying out what the government terms seditious conduct or language, promising they will be caught and imprisoned.

Ministry sources acknowledged similar measures have been announced before, but were rarely followed up on or enforced.

This time, they said, the measures will be enforced because the present climate in the country does not allow for this kind of activity.

Under the measures:

-- Afghan refugees are warned to stay away from any agitating activity or face the possibility of deportation without a hearing.

-- The use of loud speakers is banned, except for Friday sermons and five times daily call during calls to prayer.

-- Any gathering that causes disruption in civic life or economic dislocation or disruption is banned.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf held an inter-provincial meeting on law and order Wednesday to layout the new measures, which were then approved by the cabinet.

The new parameters on the government's policy to law and order problem have been officially communicated to religious leaders, Interior Ministry sources said.

But observers are doubtful these would be effective, since Pakistan has announced similar measures in the past but were not strictly enforced.

They noted the significance of these latest restrictions would be apparent when demonstrations are attempted, which are likely to be as soon as Friday.

-- CNN and Time Magazine Journalist Sayed Talat Hussain and CNN Producer Allison Flexner contributed to this report.


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