Thousands rally in Pakistan against Israel’s bombing in Gaza

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Thousands of supporters of Pakistan’s main politico-religious party rallied in the capital, Islamabad, Sunday against Israel’s bombing of Palestinians in Gaza, chanting anti-American slogans and accusing the US of “backing the aggressor.”

The extreme right party, Jamaat-e-Islami, had announced a march from Islamabad’s famous Abpara intersection to the US embassy in the high-security diplomatic enclave.

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However, stern action by the authorities the previous night forced the religious party to modify its program and hold the rally in a major street well away from the protected area. Police pulled down the party’s encampments on Saturday night, detaining the local leadership and dozens of supporters.

Because of the plan announced by Jammat-e-Islami and the risk of violence, the US embassy issued an advisory for American citizens living in Islamabad and the surrounding area to “limit unnecessary travel on Sunday.”

It advised US citizens 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.

The Jammat-e-Islami supporters, including women and children, marched for a couple of kilometers to reach the agreed 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 Haq.

He urged the leaders of Muslim world to rise up for Gaza, and to rely on Allah instead of remaining the slave of America.

Jamaat-e-Islami would continue to raise its collective voice for the Palestinians until they freed 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 Sunday, Aurat March, a women’s advocacy group, held protests in several cities against the plan announced by the Pakistani government to deport all illegal residents, including Afghans.

Aurat March supporters gathered in small groups in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Multan to raise their voices in support of Afghan nationals facing the threat of deportation.

The Pakistani authorities have repeatedly said that the action is not targeting Afghans specifically but all those living illegally in the country.

Pakistan recently announced plans to deport all migrants who are in the country illegally, including 1.7 million Afghans, but said this would be implemented in a “phased and orderly manner.”

Islamabad said all migrants without valid papers, including the Afghans, had until Oct. 31 to return to their home countries voluntarily, or else they would face arrest and deportation.

This sent a wave of panic among those living in the country without approved documents and drew widespread condemnation from rights groups. Activists say any forced deportation of Afghans will put them at a grave risk.

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