ISLAMABAD (AP) — Thousands of supporters from Pakistan’s main religious political party rallied in the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday against Israel’s bombing of Palestinians in Gaza, chanting anti-American slogans and accusing the U.S. of “backing the aggressor.”
The Jamaat-e-Islami party initially announced a march to the U.S. Embassy in the city’s high-security diplomatic enclave.
But tough action from authorities the previous night forced the party to change its plans and hold the rally in a major street away from the protected enclave. Police pulled down the party’s encampments on Saturday night, detaining the local leadership and dozens of supporters.
Because of the Jamaat-e-Islami plan and the risk of violence, the U.S. Embassy issued an advisory for American citizens living in Islamabad and the surrounding area to “limit unnecessary travel on Sunday.” It advised them to avoid large public gatherings, to exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of a large gathering or demonstration and to review personal security plans.
Jamaat-e-Islami supporters, including women and children, marched for several kilometers (miles) to reach the agreed protest venue. They held banners and posters with slogans opposing Israel and the United States and in support of the Palestinians.
“Just sending medicines and relief goods is neither sufficient, nor is it the sole duty of the world, particularly of Muslim rulers, but to stay the hand of the aggressor is the real task of the world,” said party leader Sirajul Haq. He urged the leaders of the Muslim world to rise up for Gaza, and to rely on God instead of remaining the slave of America.
Jamaat-e-Islami would continue to raise its voice for the Palestinians until they liberated their land, he said.
Another religious party, Jamiat Ulema Islam, held a massive rally in the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed solidarity and support for Gazans.
Also on Sunday, Aurat March, a women’s advocacy group, held protests in several Pakistani cities against a government policy to arrest and deport all foreigners found living in the country illegally after Oct. 31, including at least 2 million Afghans.
Aurat March supporters gathered in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Multan to support Afghans facing the threat of deportation.
Pakistani authorities have repeatedly said their campaign does not target Afghans specifically, only those migrants who are undocumented or unregistered.