Protesters Attack Anti-Nuclear Meeting in Pakistan

Reuters : 02-JUNE-98
By Raja Asghar


ISLAMABAD, June 2 (Reuters) - Anti-India protesters hurled chairs and
punches to break up a news conference called by a peace group on
Tuesday to protest against nuclear tests by India and Pakistan alike,
witnesses said.

``Anybody who is friend of India is a traitor,'' chanted the
protesters, who accused members of the Pakistan-India People's Forum
for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) of being pro-India.

PIPFPD members denied the charge and said they only wanted peace and
opposed the nuclear arms race between the rival neighbours in South
Asia.

The protesters, carrying flags and banners of the right-wing
Jamaat-i-Islami party and Shabab-i-Milli group, entered a hall at an
Islamabad hotel where the news conference was in progress and threw
chairs at the PIPFPD members, who were already facing aggressive
questioning from local reporters.

The news conference was abandoned because of the fracas, a reflection
of heightened tension between the two countries after India exploded
five nuclear devices in mid-May and Pakistan replied with what it said
was six last week.

``Burn the Indian chambers (institutions), burn them,'' chanted the
protesters.

``We believe that no justification exists on earth for either the
initial tests by India or the retaliatory tests by Pakistan...,'' said
a statement by the group, which has chapters both in India and
Pakistan of human rights and peace activists.

It urged both countries to ``abandon the destructive policy of
producing nuclear weapons,'' sign a peace treaty as well as the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty, settle their dispute on the Himalayan region of Kashmir, and
cut military spending.

Pakistan's nuclear tests were greeted with jubilation in the streets,
parties and rallies and an outpouring of national pride in the face of
what was seen as a threat by a neighbour with which Pakistan has
fought three wars.

A joint statement issued by the national unions of Pakistani and
Indian journalists also urged the governments of the two countries to
compete with each other in eradicating poverty and illiteracy rather
than engage in an arms race.

``We the working journalists of India and Pakistan appeal to both our
governments not to build up tension in the subcontinent by
participating in senseless arms race...,'' said the statement by
Pakistan's Abdul Hameed Chhapra and India's K. Sreenivas Reddy.

In a related development, a group of law students held an anti-nuclear
march in the Punjab provincial capital Lahore, where two other marches
were held to welcome the Pakistani nuclear tests.


Copyright 1998 Reuters