ISLAMABAD, Feb. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Police on Sunday sealed the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to thwart attempt by opposition parties to hold a rally against the publication of blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, according to local press reports.
Meanwhile, groups of youth burnt tires in Rawalpindi, some 30 km south of Islamabad, at different places and blocked roads on Sunday. Police arrested several people. The hide and seek between the protesters and police continued since morning.
On Saturday, the government announced a ban on rallies planned by a six-party alliance of Islamic groups, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal(MMA), on Sunday but the MMA leaders vowed to defy the ban.
Reports quoted MMA leader Munawar Hasan as saying that the police put MMA president Qazi Hussain Ahmed under house arrest in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore early Sunday. Hussain was said to serve a 30-day detention.
But Hussain described the detention order as illegal and unconstitutional and told the police that the government would be responsible for the consequences, Hasan said.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told a private TV channel that Hussain had been detained as he was determined to hold the rally in Islamabad despite the ban.
He said that security personnel, including the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Constabulary, had been deployed in Islamabad to enforce the ban on public rallies.
The police also detained MMA Secretary-General Maulana Fazlur Rehman at his Islamabad residence, who told private TV channels that the people would hold rallies despite the ban on its scheduled time.
Rehman said that he had received information from different parts that the workers had started coming towards Islamabad for the rally.
Paramilitary force rangers and extra police force have also been deployed on all the entry points of Islamabad and public transport is not allowed to enter the city so that no protester could reach the capital.
Only allowed in are those people who have identity or work card to prove that he is living or working in Islamabad.
Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said that rallies had been banned to avoid any violence in Islamabad. He said that the government had informed the MMA about its decision. However, he added, despite the ban the MMA had refused to cancel its march which other opposition parties, including the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, had agreed to support.
Police in the eastern city of Attock sent back a group of 350 people, who tried to cross into the Punjab Province from the NorthWest Frontier Province where the MMA is the ruling party. The group wanted to join the Islamabad rally but they were pushed back,mayor of the city Tahir Sadiq said.
Sherpao said that the Punjab government had been asked not to allow anyone to reach Islamabad from other parts of the country.
The MMA said that some leaders, who had gone into hiding, would appear at the venue of the rally along with activists.
National Assembly member from Islamabad Mian Mohammad Aslam andmember from Rawalpindi Hanif Abbasi have also been taken into custody. Enditem