ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Police in the eastern city of Lahore rounded up dozens of leaders of the country's main opposition party to block a rally Saturday demanding the ouster of Pakistan's military ruler.
Tensions soared in the city near the border with India, as police erected barbed wire barricades and blocked all main roads leading to Mochi Gate Garden, a massive park where the rally was scheduled to be held. Thousands were expected to attend, but police stopped the rally from taking place.
Police defended the arrests of members of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, arguing that a protest would disrupt law and order in the country.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government has refused to permit large demonstrations since Jan. 12, when Pakistan began cracking down on Islamic extremists in an effort to cooperate with the United States in its war on terrorism.
Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, has been holding high-level meetings to muster support for a referendum reaffirming his rule. The ballot would be held sometime before parliamentary elections set for October.
There is precedent for such a referendum. Former military ruler Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul Haq, who ruled Pakistan for 11 years before his death in a plane crash in 1988, held a referendum seeking to extend his mandate in 1984.
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