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Opposition Arrests In Pakistan Criticized

Pakistani police have arrested opposition leaders in order to blunt their efforts to stage nationwide protests ahead of the October 6 elections in which it is expected that Musharraf will retain Pakistan's presidency. The leaders are from the coalition group All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM), which includes Islamists from Jamaat Ulema-i-Islami and members of Nawaz Sharif's PML-N.

The United States embassy in Islamabad released a statement criticizing the move, saying in part, "We wish to express our serious concern about these developments. These detainees should be released as soon as possible." It is a rare public US criticism of Pervez Musharraf.

The arrests occurred over the weekend ahead of the protests as well as during the protests that were not prevented Monday. Former Supreme Court judge Wajih-udin Ahmad has emerged as Musharraf's first political challenger in the October 6 elections and would have broad support from lawyers and much of the public. The Pakistani president is, however, elected by the Parliament, and the Pakistani parliament is still constituted by a majority of Musharraf supporters.

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