Musharraf urges unity as violence rocks Pakistan

Islamabad, January 30:

President Pervez Musharraf appealed for Pakistan to stand united today as two people died in the latest of a wave of sectarian attacks that has killed 22 in the past few days.

Musharraf urged the public to stay calm and inform on extremists after violence which has put security forces on high alert as annual Shia religious ceremonies reach their climax.

“The entire Pakistani nation needs to face such (extremist) elements and together we can defeat them,” Musharraf told reporters before departing for a visit to Indonesia and Malaysia.

The military leader said the country should “show patience, expose such elements, stand united to face them and inform the law-enforcing agencies about their activities,” according to official media.

Authorities today imposed an indefinite curfew in the northwestern town of Hangu, where two Afghan refugees died and 15 were wounded in an exchange of mortars and gunfire at a religious procession. “Unknown attackers fired a few mortar rounds that landed near the Shiite procession and then there was an exchange of firing,” said police officer Khalid Khan.

North West Frontier Province has already seen two suicide blasts and a rocket attack, while a suicide bombing at an upmarket Islamabad hotel killed two people on Friday.

A senior interior ministry official said the curfew had been imposed to ease tensions in Hangu, where 40 died in an attack on a Shiite procession last year.

“There is lot of tension between the rival communities in Hangu and curfew has been imposed for an indefinite period in order to maintain law and order,” he said.

In other attacks 15 people, including the bomber and six police guarding a Shiite procession, were killed and 30 wounded in a suicide attack in Peshawar at the weekend. Another three people died in a suicide blast at a Dera Ismail Khan police checkpost on Monday.

Despite the violence Shiites joined processions across the country today, marking the end of 10 days of mourning for the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hussein.