KARACHI, (Reuters) – Pakistani police clashed yesterday with black-suited lawyers and opposition activists after the launch of a cross-country protest rally in defiance of government attempts to stop it.
The so-called ‘long march’ protest for an independent judiciary could destabilise President Asif Ali Zardari’s government at a time when the nuclear-armed U.S. ally faces severe problems from Islamist militants and a sinking economy.
Pakistan is vital to U.S. efforts to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan and defeat al Qaeda. The United States wants Pakistan focused on fighting militancy rather than political power plays.
Authorities banned rallies and detained hundreds of political activists on Wednesday.