Pakistani police detained dozens of Islamists, heightened security across the country and reportedly restricted movements of a top cleric ahead of planned nationwide protests Friday against the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in Western newspapers.
"We are holding only 35 activists of religious parties to stop them from taking part in rallies, as we feared that they might disrupt law and order," said Khawaja Khalid Farooq, the police chief in the eastern city of Lahore.
Police and troops in vehicles patrolled the streets of the capital Islamabad and diverted traffic from key roads in anticipation of illegal protests.
Police and paramilitary rangers surrounded the headquarters of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's most organized religious group, in Lahore to stop the group's president Qazi Hussain Ahmed from leading a rally.
Although authorities said Ahmed had been told by the government not to lead any illegal rally, Liaquat Baluch, a party leader, told the AP that they would go ahead with the planned protests.
He would not confirm that Ahmed had been placed under house arrest, although local media reported that an order for such detention had been issued. Police refused to comment.
Islamists torched hundreds of vehicles, a provincial parliament building, shops and Western businesses last week during rallies in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province, reports the AP.
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