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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pakistani Outrage Spills into Streets

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The United States and Britain heaped pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Monday, urging him to hold elections on time, as police detained hundreds of lawyers angry about his imposition of emergency rule.

Musharraf cited spiraling militancy and hostile judges to justify Saturday's action and slapped curbs on the media in a bid to stop outrage spilling onto the streets amid Pakistan's biggest crisis since he took power in a 1999 coup.

Musharraf's move heightened a sense of uncertainty in nuclear-armed Pakistan, and he had to shoot down rumors sweeping the country on Monday that he had been put under house arrest.

"It is a joke of the highest order," Musharraf said from the Presidency building in Islamabad, where he had just met more than 80 foreign diplomats to explain his decision. He said he was due to play tennis later in the day.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Musharraf, who is usually praised by U.S. officials for his cooperation in fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban, should quit the army, become a civilian leader and hold national elections due in January.

"We believe that the best path for Pakistan is to quickly return to a constitutional path and then to hold elections," Rice told a news conference during a visit to the West Bank.

"President Musharraf has said he would take off his uniform. That would be an important step," she said.

The United States has put future aid to Pakistan under review, having provided $10 billion in the past five years.

"Pakistan is a country of great strategic importance to the United States and a key partner in the war on terror. However, the actions of the past 72 hours have been disturbing," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on a visit to China, as the Pentagon postponed defense talks with Pakistan due this week.

Security in Pakistan has deteriorated sharply since July, when commandos stormed Islamabad's Red Mosque to crush an armed Islamist movement. Since then, nearly 800 people have been killed in militant-linked violence, half of them by suicide attacks.

Britain also warned Pakistan on future funding.

"We are considering the implications for our development and other assistance programs in Pakistan," a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown told reporters. "We would like to see confirmation that elections will be held on schedule in January."

As foreign pressure built up on Musharraf, a lawyers' movement took to the streets in cities across Pakistan.

Police used tear gas against stone-throwing lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore and wielded batons to break up a protest by dozens outside the High Court in Karachi.

Several hundred lawyers, chanting "Go Musharraf Go" and "The dictator is unacceptable," protested outside the lower courts in Islamabad until police dispersed them by force.

"We are not scared of these arrests. We will continue our fight, come what may," Karachi lawyer Abdul Hafeez, one of hundreds of lawyers arrested on Monday, said as police put him in a car.

Many Pakistanis believe that Musharraf's main motive in declaring emergency rule was to pre-empt a widely expected Supreme Court finding that the general had been ineligible to stand for re-election as president last month.