Mar 3, 9:49 AM EST
Pakistanis protest Bush visit, cartoons
By MUNIR AHMAD Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Anti-U.S. protests erupted in several Pakistani cities Friday, with crowds burning American flags, chanting "Death to Bush!" and scuffling with police shortly before the U.S. president was to arrive for a two-day visit.
Other Pakistanis demonstrated against cartoons of Prophet Muhammad as radical Islamic groups called a strike that shut shops and businesses some towns.
The government promised ironclad security for Bush's visit, with one official saying hundreds of army commandos and paramilitary troops would be patrolling the capital.
"We have made foolproof arrangements for the safe stay of President Bush and we do not think there will be any problem," said Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a senior Interior Ministry official who also coordinates with U.S. authorities on counterterrorism issues.
Police in the southern city of Karachi used tear gas and clubs to stop about 1,000 people from marching on the U.S. Consulate, witnesses said.
The stone-throwing crowd came within 200 yards of the building, which was the target of a suicide bomb attack Thursday that killed an American diplomat and three others. The protesters burned U.S. flags and chanted, "Pakistani nation wants head of Bush!"
In Rawalpindi, a city just outside the capital of Islamabad, hundreds of police swung batons to chase off about 1,000 protesters on a major road about five miles from where President Bush's plane was expected to land on a flight from neighoring India.
As Bush wrapped up his visit in India, an anti-U.S. protest in the Indian city of Lucknow turned into a clash between Hindus and Muslims that left one person dead and 12 injured, police said.
Mark Smith, A-P correspondent, with President Bush: President Bush is wrapping up a three-day stay in India -- and heading to Pakistan.
The violence erupted when dozens of armed Muslims tried to force Hindu shop owners to shut their stores to protest Bush's visit, Senior Superintendent of Police Ashutosh Pandey said.
The clash came amid anti-Bush demonstrations in various Indian cities by communists and Muslim groups, which had demanded he not be allowed into the country.
In Rawalpindi, some Pakistanis chanted "Killer go back" and "Death to America" during the 30-minute protest. One demonstrator had a bloody forehead, and police stuffed at least five others into a van, an Associated Press photographer on the scene said.
The demonstrators were supporters of the Imamia Students Organization, a Shiite Muslim group. Some trampled on the U.S. flag, while others carried Bush portraits with his face crossed out in red.
In Chaman, a southwestern town on the Afghan border, between 4,000 and 5,000 people protested peacefully. They shouted, "Go back Bush! Bush, dog!" and "God is great!"
A similar rally by about 3,000 people took place in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
About 300 university students rallied in Islamabad, burning an effigy of Bush. Some carried signs that said, "Go back, go back big Satan Bush."
Javed Rahman, one of the protesters, said: "We are protesting against the coming of Bush because we hate him. He is the killer of so many innocent people, so many innocent Muslims."
The students also burned a Danish flag, in protest of the Muhammad cartoons first published in a newspaper in that European nation.
More than 600 people, most of them students, staged a rally in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan's portion of Kashmir, to protest the cartoons. Some wore white shrouds with bands reading, "We can sacrifice our lives to protect prophet's dignity."
Four men stood on a busy street in the eastern city of Lahore with a sign reading "Boycott all goods from Denmark." They were surrounded by a dozen police within minutes and taken away in a pickup truck.
Officials also snatched an anti-Bush sign from a woman on the same street and ordered her away.
The Islamic coalition Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or United Action Forum, called a strike to condemn the cartoons.
Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a coalition leader, told reporters in Lahore that it also was protesting the visit by Bush, saying coalition supporters would greet the U.S. president with black flags.
Associated Press writers Zarar Khan in Karachi, Naseer Kakar in Quetta, Asif Shahzad in Lahore and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.