Saturday, January 17, 2004

Musharraf heckled

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf gave his first ever (!) speech to parliment this month and was consistently heckled throughout.

Noisy hecklers from opposition parties asked Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to quit office on Saturday as he made his first-ever speech in parliament since seizing power in a military coup more than four years ago.

Meanwhile, a Pakistan International Airlines flight carrying a high-profile opposition lawmaker from Lahore to the capital was diverted without explanation to the northwestern city of Peshawar, preventing her from attending the speech.

Musharraf, who survived two assassination attempts last month, spoke on the needs to crush terrorism, to keep India's nuclear weapons secure and to resolve the Kashmir problem. Security around parliament was tight.

"A few people are committing the curse of extremism in our society ...who want to impose their narrow-minded ideas on others," Musharraf said, swapping his army uniform for a white jacket for the occasion.

Opposition legislators chanted "Go Musharraf, go Musharraf" and "Friends of dictators are traitors" as soon as Musharraf took the podium. They kept up the cry throughout his 40-minute speech. The noise worsened as Musharraf's supporters countered by thumping on tables in a show of applause and support.


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