Pakistan Rocked by Renewed Violence and Angry Demonstrations

A member of Pakistan's Muslim League-N party joins the demonstration in Rawalpindi by lawyers demanding the government reinstates sacked judges. (Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP)

Pakistan Rocked by Renewed Violence and Angry Demonstrations

Fierce fighting between militants and government forces continued in Pakistan's lawless western provinces today as hundreds of lawyers staged demonstrations calling for the reinstatement of the judges fired by the former president, Pervez Musharraf.

Up to 49 insurgents were killed in separate attacks in the North-West Frontier province and tribal areas adjoining Afghanistan. At least nine people, some of them police, were killed when a bus was bombed in Bannu. The powerful blast left a large crater in the middle of a bridge with the burnt-out vehicle completely wrecked.

A few hours earlier, security forces drove off a Taliban attack on a fort and attacked a band of militants holed up in a health centre.

Parts of the South Waziristan region, including the town of Wana, have been placed under curfew.

Observers say the Pakistan Taliban are becoming bolder in their attacks, but knowing who is responsible for some of the violence is muddied by tensions between the Taliban and tribal leaders who oppose them.

In Bajaur, a suspected member of the Taliban was beaten to death near the site of the funeral of two tribal leaders, Malik Zareen and Malik Bakhtawar. They were killed in a rocket attack on Monday after trying to raise a tribal force against local Taliban.

The lawyers' angry protests in cities throughout the country underline the precarious state of Pakistani government. Musharraf's resignation triggered a scramble for power that led to the collapse of the country's ruling coalition.

On Monday, the country's second-biggest party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, pulled out of the coalition with the Pakistan People's party (PPP), led by Asif Ali Zardari, the widow of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto.

Nawaz's party said the PPP was dragging its feet on reinstating the chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, because Chaudhry might challenge the amnesty granted to Zardari on corruption charges.

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