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Sunday, 9 July, 2000, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Sharif supporters detained
Police arrests workers and supporters of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifs party
Police surrounded the PML meeting in Rawalpindi
Police in Pakistan have broken up a meeting of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif's former ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League, and detained about 30 people.

About 50 opposition supporters had gathered at the party headquarters in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to plan a protest against the arrest on Saturday of Mr Sharif's wife, Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif.

The PML were planning a protest

Mrs Sharif returned home early on Sunday following a 10-hour stand-off with police in which her car was lifted with a crane and dragged away with her still in it.

She had been attempting to stage a rally banned by Pakistan's military rulers.

Opposition arrests

Sunday's raid is part of an ongoing military crackdown on the opposition.

Outside the PML meeting, men were seen taking tyres and petrol into the premises.

"We're going to burn these tyres in the market to protest Kulsoom's arrest," one supporter told reporters.

Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz and her car towed away by police
Mrs Sharif refused to get out of the car

Minutes later about 45 police armed with tear gas and shields surrounded the building and sealed off the exits. About 30 PML supporters were taken to police headquarters, some shouting slogans such as "Long Live Nawaz Sharif" and "Prime Minister Sharif."

On Friday, scores of PML supporters and members, including some former ministers, were rounded up in the eastern city of Lahore in the biggest crackdown on the party since Mr Sharif was ousted in a coup in October.

Authorities said the action had been necessary to prevent Mrs Sharif leading an illegal rally planned for Saturday.

Political campaign

Mrs Sharif, who said she was had been planning a procession to raise money for drought victims, broke a massive police cordon around her home where she had been held under virtual house arrest since late Friday

Her car was stopped about 15km (10 miles) away and police used an overhead crane to lift the front wheels and drag it into a police compound.

Mrs Sharif and three others refused to leave the car or open the doors for 10 hours, before finally going home.

During the stand-off, Mrs Nawaz, speaking on a mobile phone, told reporters she was trying to rally support for her campaign opposing military rule.

Her daughter, Maryam Safdar, said her mother was tired but not hurt after the incident.

Police were still surrounding Mrs Sharif's house late on Sunday afternoon with orders not to allow her to leave. Mrs Sharif has promised to set another date for the rally, but nothing had been fixed yet, her daughter told Reuters news agency.

The public profile of Mrs Sharif's wife has grown since her husband was toppled in the October military coup and subsequently jailed for terrorism and hijacking.

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See also:

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Pakistan stand-off ends
07 Jul 00 | South Asia
Mass arrest of Sharif supporters
06 Jul 00 | South Asia
Sharif's former colleague testifies
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02 Jun 00 | South Asia
Sharif charged with corruption
25 May 00 | South Asia
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